By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(19-Jan) — Befitting an Olympic Year, organizers of the Virgin Money London Marathon announced a blockbuster men’s elite field for the 36th edition of their race –Britain’s largest marathon– on Sunday, April 24. The field includes current champions of the Berlin, London, New York, Rotterdam, Tokyo, and World Championships marathons; eight men who have broken the 2:06 barrier; and the present and previous world record holders.
Topping the athlete list are the first five men to finish last year’s race (in order): Kenyans Eliud Kipchoge, Wilson Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto, and Stanley Biwott, and Ethiopia’s Tilahun Regassa. Kipchoge –the #1-ranked marathoner by Track & Field News for 2015 with victories in both London and Berlin– ran the two fastest times in the world last year: 2:04:42 at London and 2:04:00 at Berlin. He is the points leader of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series IX which concludes at the Tokyo Marathon next month. Coached by Patrick Sang, Kipchoge has five marathon victories in six starts.
“It was fantastic to win the Virgin Money London Marathon last year against one of the greatest fields ever assembled in marathon running,” Kipchoge said through a statement provided by race organizers. “This year I will come back to London to compete again with the world‘s best athletes. I will work hard to defend my title in London and, together with Wilson, Dennis, Stanley and those from other countries, make it a fast and wonderful race.”
Kipsang, the former world record holder with a 2:03:23 personal best, was the London champion in both 2012 and 2014. He was also the TCS New York City Marathon winner in 2014, and took fourth last year.
Kimetto is the current world record holder and the only man to break 2:03 in the marathon: 2:02:57. In London, he’ll be trying to rebound from a disappointing second half of 2015 in which he dropped out of both the IAAF World Championships and Fukuoka Marathons.
Biwott is the reigning TCS New York City Marathon champion and has a career best time of 2:04:55. He recently won the Sao Silvestre Road Race over 15 kilometers in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 31 December.
Regassa is an erratic athlete with a solid marathon best of 2:05:27, but an even better half-marathon record of 59:19. He won the Rotterdam Marathon in 2013 and the Eindhoven Marathon in 2014.
There are other outstanding athletes in the race, like three-time Olympic gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, reigning world marathon champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea, national marathon record holder Arne Gabius of Germany, nine-time European Cross Country Championships gold medalist Serhiy Lebid of Ukraine, and and 10,000m and half-marathon ace Bedan Karoki of Kenya who will be making his marathon debut.
“With the world record holder, the world champion, and our own course record holder Wilson Kipsang racing, Eliud knows he will have to be at his best,” said event director Hugh Brasher in a statement. “It should be thrilling to watch.”
The race also serves as the U.K. Athletics trial for the Rio Olympics. The first two British athletes to cross the finish line on The Mall will be nominated for team selection, provided they have achieved a mark of 2:14:00 or better during the U.K. Athletics qualifying period (the team will be announced the day after the race). Top British entrants include Chris Thompson, Scott Overall, and Callum Hawkins. Thirteen British men have entered.
“And with the Rio Olympics fast approaching, the battle to be top Briton should be equally enthralling,” added Brasher.
Here is the full elite field with personal best times:
Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:04:00
Dennis Kimetto (KEN) 2:02:57
Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 2:03:23
Endeshaw Negesse (ETH) 2:04:52
Stanley Biwott (KEN) 2:04:55
Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:05:04
Tilahun Regassa (ETH) 2:05:27
Abera Kuma (ETH) 2:05:56
Samuel Tsegay (ERI) 2:07:28
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (ERI) 2:07:47
Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 2:08:17
Serhiy Lebid (UKR) 2:08:32
Arne Gabius (GER) 2:08:33
Tewelde Estifanos (ERI) 2:09:16
Ghebrezgiabhier Kibrom (ERI) 2:09:36
Vitaliy Shafar (UKR) 2:09:58
Marcin Chabowski (POL) 2:10:07
Scott Overall (GBR) 2:10:55
Chris Thompson (GBR) 2:11:14
Yuki Sato (JPN) 2:12:12
Callum Hawkins (GBR) 2:12:17
Nordstad Moen (NOR) 2:12:54
Lee Merrien (GBR) 2:13:41
Derek Hawkins (GBR) 2:14:04
Shawn Forrest (AUS) 2:14:37
Kevin Seaward (IRL) 2:14:52
Phil Wicks (GBR) 2:15:37
Paul Pollock (IRL) 2:15:38
Ben Moreau (GBR) 2:15:52
Ian Kimpton (GBR) 2:15:55
Matthew Hynes (GBR) 2:16:00
John Beattie (GBR) 2:16:38
Andrew Davies (GBR) 2:16:55
Stephen Scullion (IRL) 2:34:33
Bedan Karoki (KEN) Debut
Gervais Hakizimana (RWA) Debut
Jonathan Hay (GBR) Debut
Ryan McLeod (GBR) Debut
Alejandro Fernandez Martin (ESP) Debut
PHOTO: Eliud Kipchoge winning the 2015 Virgin Mondy London Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)