The elite men’s race is set to feature seven sub-2:06 marathoners, while Chris Thompson is among the Brits in action as he eyes a London 2017 spot
Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele is among those to have been announced for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday April 23.
Forming part of another top field, which is set to feature seven sub-2:06 marathoners and 16 who have run times quicker than 2:10, he is due to be joined by athletes including his fellow Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa, Kenyan Stanley Biwott and Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea, while Bedan Karoki, who claimed silver at last year’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, makes his marathon debut.
Already a three-time Olympic gold medallist and double world record-holder on the track, Bekele moved to second on the world marathon all-time list when he won the 2016 Berlin Marathon last September.
Missing the world record by just six seconds, Bekele clocked 2:03:03. Breaking Haile Gebrselassie’s Ethiopian record, his performance sent a powerful message to the selectors who had left him out of Ethiopia’s team for the Rio Olympic Games.
Now Bekele seeks to become only the third Ethiopian man to win the London Marathon title after finishing third on his debut at the event last year when not fully fit. He will have Eliud Kipchoge’s course record of 2:03:05 in his sights this year, as well as perhaps even Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57.
“London is the greatest marathon in the world and I would love to win there,” said Bekele, who on Monday was also announced for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on January 20. “The field is always the best and victory means so much. After finishing third last year, I know what I need to do to win.”
Biwott, who won the 2015 New York City Marathon, is likely to be Bekele’s main rival as he leads the Kenyan challenge in the absence of two-time champion Kipchoge. He finished runner-up in 2014, fourth in 2015 and second last year in a personal best of 2:03:51.
The field also contains two marathon gold medallists, three of the top five finishers from last summer’s Olympic Games, and the winners of the Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York in 2016.
Bekele’s compatriots on the famous start line at Blackheath will include Rio Olympic silver medallist and Tokyo Marathon champion Lilesa, the 2016 Dubai and Hamburg Marathon champion Tesfaye Abera, and Tilahun Regassa, who is aiming to make the London podium after finishing fifth and sixth in the last two years.
Meanwhile, Biwott will have top class company in fellow Kenyans Abel Kirui and Daniel Wanjiru. The experienced Kirui, who won the world marathon title in 2011 and 2013, returns to London for the first time since 2012 when he was fifth just four months before winning Olympic silver in the same city.
After a number of years without a major victory, he was a surprise winner of the 2016 Chicago Marathon last October and will be looking for another strong performance as he seeks selection for Kenya’s 2017 World Championships team. Wanjiru will also be one to watch after he lowered his personal best by almost three minutes to win last October’s Amsterdam Marathon in 2:05:21.
Eritrea’s young star Ghebreslassie returns to London after finishing fourth last April in a PB 2:07:46. The 21-year-old, who become the youngest ever global marathon champion when he won the 2015 world title in Beijing at the age of 19, claimed the 2016 New York Marathon crown last November after placing fourth at the Rio Games in August.
Abraham Tadesse, who broke the Swiss record last March when he clocked 2:06:40 in Seoul, missing the European record by just four seconds, is also among the entries.
Former European 10,000m silver medallist Chris Thompson flies the flag for Britain on home roads as he targets a place at the London 2017 World Championships. Thompson was 11th on his debut in London three years ago and after battling injury problems he finished 16th last year but spoke with AW in November about his new-found level of enthusiasm after a strong autumn on the roads.
2017 Virgin Money London Marathon elite men and personal best times
Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:03:03
Stanley Biwott (KEN) 2:03:51
Tesfaye Abera (ETH) 2:04:24
Feyisa Lilesa (ETH) 2:04:52
Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:05:04
Daniel Wanjiru (KEN) 2:05:21
Tilahun Regassa (ETH) 2:05:27
Abraham Tadesse (SUI) 2:06:40
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (ERI) 2:07:46
Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 2:08:17
Asefa Mengstu (ETH) 2:08:41
Oleksandr Sitkovsky (UKR) 2:09:11
Alphonce Felix Simbu (TAN) 2:09:19
Javier Guerra (ESP) 2:09:33
Ghebre Kibrom (ERI) 2:09:36
Vitaliy Shafar (UKR) 2:09:53
Michael Shelley (AUS) 2:11:15
Chris Thompson (GBR) 2:11:19
Bayron Piedra (ECU) 2:14:12
Kevin Seaward (IRL) 2:14:52
Mick Clohisey (IRL) 2:15:11
Robbie Simpson (GBR) 2:15:38
Ian Kimpton (GBR) 2:15:55
Matthew Hynes (GBR) 2:16:00
Bouabdellah Tahri (FRA) 2:16:28
Andrew Davies (GBR) 2:16:55
Tom Anderson (GBR) 2:19:52
Jesús Arturo Esparza (MEX) 2:23:04
Bedan Karoki Muchiri (KEN) Debut