As the dust settles on a thrilling Sunday morning in Berlin last week, Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record sent a flash through the elite fields of this weekend’s London Marathon. Inspirational, yes, but this year’s race could now inject an extra layer of naivety among its world-class runners, determined to test the veracity of the legendary Kenyan mantra “no human is limited”. It should make for an exciting series of races with the appeal of size that probably justifies a lot of gambling.
Amid the great mourning for the nation as it mourns the loss of Queen Elizabeth II in recent weeks, Sunday’s race will aim to celebrate her life with a range of honours. Having only officially started the legendary race in 2018, the Queen’s former residence, Buckingham Palace, also provides a stunning backdrop as the 26.2-mile course approaches the finish line.
A cost-of-living crisis that shows no signs of reprieve and a dizzying economy also mean the London Marathon is a welcome distraction, both in terms of entertainment as the elite fields compete and for up to 50,000 amateurs fortunate enough to be successful in voting and now able to do so to fulfill personal ambitions or be willing to endure intense physical pain and adversity in the name of charity, raising over £50m in total became.
Organizers looked on with envy as four-time London Marathon winner Kipchoge wrote another famous chapter in his illustrious career through the Brandenburg Gate. The 37-year-old will be back in the capital for Saturday’s mini-marathon but the main race was even more disappointing this week when Sir Mo Farah’s hopes were dashed by a hip problem sustained two weeks ago. 2022 World Championships silver medalist Mosinet Geremev and 2022 World Championships silver medalist Brigid Kosgei were also forced to withdraw.
But despite the waning of star power, there are a number of world-class talents with the tantalizing prospect of two course records; Paula Radcliffe still holds the women’s record from 2003 (2:15:25), while Kipchoge’s course record (2:02:37) was only set in 2019.
The creaky physique of Kenenisa Bekele seems finally ready to hit the starting line at the time of writing, no doubt fueled by Kipchoge’s recent breakthrough at the age of 37. The 40-year-old scored a DNS in London two years ago, followed by a third in Berlin in 2:06:47, a disappointing 2:12:52 in New York last November and a DNS in Boston earlier this year. The Ethiopian brings an odd subplot to this race as he could produce fireworks if he could muster his all-time personal best, although he appeared to concede a remarkable 2:01:41 at Berlin 2019, just two seconds off Kipchoge’s previous world record mark she could go beyond him now.
“I couldn’t achieve what everyone had hoped for in the marathon,” said Bekele. “Somehow I failed in some marathon races. On the other hand, my marathon times also tell you something. I’m second overall behind Eliud Kipchoge. And it was very close. It was only two seconds until last week.
“So that tells everyone: It doesn’t matter if I win a marathon 10 times or 20 times, how many athletes can run this time? Of course I’m not perfect. I didn’t really reach all the viewers or my fans that wanted me to. But on the other hand, these results were not easy to achieve.”
In the absence of a Bekele renaissance, defending champion Sisay Lemma is the man with a target on his back, while Olympic and World Championships bronze medalist Bashir Abdi feels a blistering pace awaits in hopes he’ll beat the Course improved his own European record (2:03:36). Such ambition from the field could propel Birhanu Legese (2:02:48 Pb, third all-time) or Amos Kipruto (2:03:13 and second behind Kipchoge in Tokyo this year) into the winners’ circle with a shiny newcomer this year PB and course record.
“If you see the start list, they’ll go fast,” said Abdi, who didn’t finish in Boston earlier this year. “It will be great to break the European record again. I was here in 2019, I don’t remember the course anymore, only the organization, the atmosphere. I think whether the course is fast enough, whether the field is strong enough, no question, we’ll have to see that on Sunday.”
A convincing British race could be developing among the heavyweights, with last year’s leading male Phil Sesemann keen to take a hefty cut from his 2:12:58 just six weeks after finishing as the first Brit at the Munich European Championships. Weyney Ghebresilasie and Mohamud Aadan provide likely competition.
Though Kosgei is absent from the women’s race, a titanic battle is brewing between defending champion Joyciline Jepkosgei, who clocked the eighth fastest time (2:17:43) to victory last year, and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who stunned the sport with the fastest-ever -Debut (2:17:23) in Hamburg in April. A low-key debut has been carefully crafted to limit expectations and glamor at a Major, but this week the 23-year-old Ethiopian finds a keen eye at the center of the marathon world.
More firepower comes in the form of Ashete Bekere (2:17:58), a champion in Berlin three years ago, and world silver medalist Judith Korir (2:18:20). And Charlotte Purdue is spiking British interest, hoping to bounce back from a DNF at Eugene to secure another top 10 finish, which matched her PB of 2:23:26 last year.
After a three-year calendar shift forced by Covid, London is looking to say goodbye to its temporary home in October in style. If Kipchoge’s greatness set the table last week, London now sets the stage for a celebration of marathon running.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/general/athletics/london-marathon-preview-2022-kipchoge-b2184038.html London Marathon Preview: Setting the stage for greatness following Eliud Kipchoge exploits