The London Marathon has yet again brought in one of the fastest fields in history, including Kenenisa Bekele, perhaps the greatest runner of all-time. The women’s race features a jaw-dropping four runners who’ve dipped under the 2:20 mark, which can be seen as the gold standard in women’s marathon running.
The race kicks off with the women’s field at 4:30 a.m. ET, and the men going shortly afterward, which works perfectly for early risers on the East coast in North America hoping to catch the finish before heading out for a long run.
Here’s who to look out for and what to expect in both the men’s and women’s races.
The men’s race
The opening 5K of this race will reveal just how fast London is going to be. It’s unclear just how fit and healthy Kenenisa Bekele is, but if he’s anywhere close to the form he showed last year in Berlin, when he nearly broke the world record, we’ll be in for a treat of a race.
“I am in just as good shape as I was in Berlin last year,” Bekele told London organizers. “I think I can improve my personal best.”
While Bekele is the clear favourite, he didn’t look great in Dubai, and dropped out after falling at the start line. If he’s not dominating the field by the mid-point, Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilsea is probably the most capable of running away with the win. He’s run 2:04:52 and also won silver in Rio.
RELATED: Hear our London Marathon prediction here.
But there are plenty of other strong runners in London, as well as a few exciting dark horse picks.
Former two-time world champion Abel Kirui resurrected his career last fall by winning Chicago. He’s run 2:05, but that was years ago, so the pace in London may be too great for him to pull of the win. His coach, the great Renato Canova, did say last week that Kirui was out-performing Geoffrey Kirui (the winner of the Boston Marathon) in recent workouts.
Reigning world champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie is also due to run much faster than his relatively slow PB of 2:07:46. He’s also won New York City and finished a strong fourth in Rio, so he knows how to win a tactical race. The problem is that London is paced, so the speed of the race may become an issue for the Eritrean.
Other runners capable of stealing the win are Daniel Wanjiru (who won Amsterdam last year in 2:05), Tesfaye Abera (2:04 PB and a winner in Dubai in 2016), and Bedan Karoki, who’s running his debut in London. Karoki is an extraordinary half-marathoner, with a 59:10 performance recently, so he should be able to maintain a hot pace for at least the first half in London.
The favourite: Kenenisa Bekele
The dark horse: Abel Kirui and Bedan Karoki
Our pick: Kenenisa Bekele (Tim); Feyisa Lilesa (Michael); Abel Kirui (Sinead)
Elite Men – Start List
|Bib No.||Name||Country||Personal Best||Bib Name|
|11||Alphonce Felix Simbu||TAN||2:09:19||SIMBU|
|33||Jesús Arturo Esparza||MEX||2:23:04||ESPARZA|
The women’s race
This field is arguably the greatest women’s marathon ever assembled. Mary Keitany has been absolutely dominant, with a string of impressive victories in the last few years, including two wins in London and three in NYC. Keitany can beat the field with speed or with tactics. She’s also coming off a 65:13 half-marathon performance in February, so she’s looking extremely fit.
Florence Kiplagat is another fast marathoner (2:19:44 PB) who knows how to win a Major Marathon, as does Mare Dibaba. The Ethiopian is another of the four women on the start line with a sub-2:20 personal best, and she’s won a world championship and an Olympic medal. She comes into London fit, having beat a strong field at the Lisbon Half last month.
It’s crazy to say this, but in a field with four sub-2:20 women, Tirunesh Dibaba, perhaps the greatest female runner of all-time, could be seen as an underdog. The 5,000m world record holder and multiple Olympic champ jumped up to the marathon in 2014. She ran one of the greatest debuts ever, finishing London in 2:20. But she took 2015 off to have a child, and had a mediocre (by her standards) 2016. Look for her to run under 2:20 and challenge for the win.
Another exciting dark horse pick is 5,000m gold medallist from Rio, Vivian Cheruiyot. She’s making her debut in London can certainly has the speed to keep up with the pack for the first half of the race.
How will Krista DuChene do in London?
The lone Canadian elite in the field is top marathoner and 40-year-old Krista DuChene. She’s the second fastest Canadian ever at the distance, and just spent the winter in Kenya training for the first time. She also switched coaches after a solid race in Rio, her first Olympics at 39 years old. She should have a lot of company in London’s deep elite field, so look for her to dip solidly under 2:30.
The favourite: Mary Keitany
The dark horse: Vivian Cheruiyot
Our pick: Tigist Tufa (Tim); Tirunesh Dibaba (Michael); Florence Kiplagat (Sinead)
Elite Women – Start List
|Bib No.||Name||Country||Personal Best||Bib Name|
|104||Florence Kiplagat||KEN||2:19:44||F KIPLAGAT|
|105||Mare Dibaba||ETH||2:19:52||M DIBABA|
|107||Tirunesh Dibaba||ETH||2:20:35||T DIBABA|