Eliud Kipchoge and Mary Keitany among athletes who could challenge world records, while Mo Farah hopes to make an impact on marathon return
The conditions for Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon are set to be hot, and some scorching performances are also on the cards as stacked fields race for records and victory.
Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru defends his title against the greats Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele, with Britain’s Mo Farah hoping to make an impact on his marathon return, while Mary Keitany and Tirunesh Dibaba could push each other to an outright world record, accompanied by male pacemakers as Paula Radcliffe was when she set her monumental mark of 2:15:25 in 2003.
Check out our race previews below and see the April 19 edition of AW magazine for more. The April 26 issue will include in-depth coverage.
How will Farah fare against Kipchoge, Bekele and Wanjiru?
Steve Jones has no doubts whatsoever that Mo Farah will break his long-standing British marathon record on Sunday, while Paula Radcliffe says she knows his training has gone “really well”, but how will the British track great fare against such fierce opposition?
Last year’s winner Wanjiru, the man Farah beat by three seconds at the Vitality Big Half in the UK capital this year, returns to defend his title.
Also looming large are 5000m and 10,000m world record-holder Kenenisa Bekele and Eliud Kipchoge, the second and third-fastest marathoners of all time respectively.
Kipchoge is also the man who came so close to breaking the two-hour barrier for the marathon when he clocked 2:00:25 in the Nike-sponsored project last year.
Farah ran 2:08:21 in coming eighth during his marathon debut in London in 2014, a time which makes him 13th fastest in the assembled field this year. With his focus now entirely on the marathon, the British record of 2:07:13 and the European mark of 2:05:48 are both under threat.
“I think he very much wants to be in the mix and racing but he sees it as a stepping stone,” said women’s world record-holder Radcliffe, whose husband and former coach Gary Lough is now guiding Farah.
“Number one is to run a personal best, number two is to be competitive in the race. If he can get the British record, maybe the European record, I think they are goals he is looking at.”
Other contenders include Ethiopia’s Guye Adola, who produced the fastest marathon debut in history in Berlin to finish runner-up to Kipchoge, plus Kenya’s Abel Kirui, who has twice been a world champion and was runner-up last year in the Chicago marathon, a race he won in 2016.
Farah commands most of the British interest, but there will be a group of four home athletes in the elite field battling it out to secure their places on the Great Britain team for this summer’s European Championships.
Tsegai Tewelde and Jonny Mellor have both run inside the 2:16:00 standard but must finish as one of the top two Britons in London to make sure of a seat on the plane to Berlin. They are joined by Aaron Scott and Matthew Clowes.
Could Keitany end Radcliffe’s record reign?
Kenya’s Keitany has been honest and clear from the outset. She wants Radcliffe’s outright world marathon record and will run with male pacemakers, just as the Briton did in 2003.
Of course, a Keitany victory is far from a foregone conclusion, particularly when one of the women who will be trying to stop her is the formidable Dibaba, who has three Olympic and five world titles on the track to her name.
The Ethiopian clocked 2:17:56 in finishing second to Keitany’s 2:17:01 last year despite stomach problems in the closing stages and, following a subsequent win at the Chicago Marathon in the autumn, will be looking to push the pace herself.
Kenya’s Gladys Cherono and Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba also have sub-2:20 PBs to their names, while a further three athletes – Brigid Kosgei, Tigist Tufa and Tadelech Bekele – have run under 2:22.
What should have been a British quartet in the elite women’s field has lost its fastest member and been reduced to a trio following the withdrawal of Charlotte Purdue due to a stress fracture in her femur. That leaves two athletes who have gone inside the European Championships qualifying standard of 2:36:00, as well as a young debutante, for the home crowd to cheer on.
Tracy Barlow returns to the race after her 16th place last year, while Lily Partridge hopes to bounce back after the disappointment of her DNF at the Berlin Marathon in September and they will be joined by debutante Rebecca Murray. Louise Damen is also chasing a European team place.
Weir searching for a great eight
When David Weir sped down The Mall to get to the finish line first by only a second last year, he not only secured a thrilling victory but also a special place in the history books.
That London Marathon win was his seventh, taking him past Tanni Grey-Thompson and making him the most prolific champion the event has seen.
Now the six-time Paralympic champion and local hero is looking to do it all again and add yet another London title to his tally.
He faces Switzerland’s Paralympic marathon champion Marcel Hug and Australian Kurt Fearnley, fresh from winning the Commonwealth gold on home soil.
In the elite women’s wheelchair race, another Swiss star – Manuela Schär – returns after a spectacular win last year in which she smashed the course record and won by almost five minutes in 1:39:57.
Her main opposition will come in the form of Americans Tatyana McFadden, Amanda McGrory and Susannah Scaroni. Home fans will be hoping Commonwealth triathlon champion Jade Jones can build on her top-five finish from last year.
08:40: Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon (preview here)
08:55: Elite wheelchair races
09:00: World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup ambulant races
09:15: Elite women’s race
10:00: Elite men’s race, British Athletics & England Athletics Marathon Championships and mass race
UK TV COVERAGE
08:30-14:00: BBC One
14:00-14:30: BBC Two
18:00-19:00: BBC Two highlights