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London Marathon preview: will we see two course records broken?

No Farah, no Kosgei, but still a loaded field featuring former Olympic and world champions

Photo by: Kevin Morris

For the third straight year, the TCS London Marathon is set to take place on the first Sunday of October (Oct. 2). Many of the world’s top marathoners have made their way to London for a shot at USD $55,000, plus added incentives for time bonuses and course records.

Kenenisa Bekele at the 2017 London Marathon. Photo: KATIE CHAN/WC

If anyone were to break Eliud Kipchoge’s world record of 2:01:09 in Berlin last weekend, they would earn a huge payday of USD $400,000+, between prize money and bonuses.

A number of the top athletes have scratched from the marathon this week due to injury, including the British Olympic champion of years past, Mo Farah, who is out with a hip injury; 2022 world championship silver medallist Mosinet Gemerew; and the women’s world record holder, Brigid Kosgei, who suffered a hamstring injury in the lead-up to the race.

Mo Farah, 39, has scratched from Sunday’s marathon due to a hip injury. Photo: Kevin Morris

Both the men’s and women’s fields are still loaded with former Olympic medallists and Abbott World Marathon Major champions. Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele headlines the men’s race, returning to London for the first time since 2018, after second-, third- and sixth-place finishes in his past three attempts. Bekele, 40, has not been in top form since he ran the second-fastest marathon of all time to win the 2019 Berlin Marathon (2:01:41).

His challenges will come from his Ethiopian compatriot and defending champion Sisay Lemma and two-time Tokyo Marathon winner Birhanu Legese, who holds a personal best of 2:02:48 and is the third-fastest man in history.

Mo Farah, Bashir Abdi and Daniel Wanjiru at the 2019 London Half Marathon. Photo: Paul W C/C

Another name not to ignore is Bashir Abdi of Belgium, who earlier this year became the first Belgian to win a medal at both the world championships and the Olympics in the marathon. Abdi won bronze in Tokyo and followed it up with another bronze in Eugene. 

Amos Kipruto of Kenya has been quiet this season after his PB and second-place finish to Kipchoge at the Tokyo Marathon in March. 

Our pick: Amos Kipruto (KEN) 2:03-mid

Women’s preview

With the two-time London Marathon champion and world record holder Kosgei out, her compatriot, Joyciline Jepkosgei, is the favourite. Jepkosgei brings experience and consistency to the field, having won this race last year in 2:17:43.

The dark horse is Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who previously held the half-marathon world record and ran the fastest debut marathon in women’s history, clocking 2:17:23 at Hamburg in April. She has gone undefeated in her last four road races and reached the podium in her last seven. 

Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw held the half-marathon record in 2021

Ashete Bekere of Ethiopia also has the experience, winning Berlin in 2019 and finishing third in London last year. Earlier this year, she was second to Kosgei at the Tokyo Marathon, where she ran her personal best of 2:17:58.

Judith Jeptum Korir of Kenya, the 2022 world championship silver medallist and reigning Paris Marathon champion, was originally planning to pace the leaders on Sunday, but has been a late addition to the elite list. London will be Korir’s third marathon in six months, but she has reached the podium in her last two. 

Judith Jeptum Korir of Kenya (second from right) finished second in the marathon at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore. Photo: Kevin Morris

Our pick: Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) 2:15-flat CR

How to watch

If you have a subscription to FloTrack, you can follow Sunday’s marathon coverage starting at 3:30 a.m. E.T. The elite women will start at 9 a.m. local time, while the elite men will go off at 9:40 a.m.