Kipsang won the 2012 and 2014 editions of the race through England’s capital.
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Defending champion Wilson Kipsang and world record holder Dennis Kimetto, both of Kenya, lead a particularly strong men’s elite field for the 2015 London Marathon, organizers announced Thursday. The 35th edition of the 36,000-runner race, part of the World Marathon Majors series, will take place on Sunday, April 26.
Kipsang, 32, crushed the competition at London last year, blasting the second half of the race in 61:58 and clocking a course record 2:04:29. He went on to win the TCS New York City Last November, was named the world’s No. 1 marathoner by Athletics Weekly, and was crowned the 2013/2014 World Marathon Majors overall winner. Kipsang also won in London in 2012, and if he wins again in April he would join the race’s other three-time champions: Martin Lel (Kenya), Dionicio Ceron (Mexico) and Antonio Pinto (Portugal).
“I would love to join the London Marathon legends by winning a third title,” said Kipsang, the former world record holder with a 2:03:23 personal best, through a statement.
Kipsang would like nothing more than to beat Kimetto, 30, the man who broke his marathon world record at Berlin last September, clocking 2:02:57, the world’s first sub-2:03 marathon. The men are friends and sometimes train together, but racing is about winning.
“London always has the best fields, but with Dennis in the lineup this year it promises to be a bruising battle,” Kipsang said. “I certainly won’t give up my title without a fight, but let’s see who has the knock-out blow.”
Kipsang and Kimetto are merely the top of a deep field built by race director Hugh Brasher and former race director Dave Bedford. Four more fantastic Kenyans—Emmanuel Mutai (2:03:13 PB), Eliud Kipchoge (2:04:05), Sammy Kitwara (2:04:28) and Stanley Biwott (2:04:55)—are also entered. Mutai, who won the London Marathon in 2011 and was a former course record holder, is the second-fastest marathoner of all-time. Kipchoge is a former track world champion who won both the Rotterdam and Chicago Marathons last year and was named the world’s No. 1 marathoner by Track & Field News. Kitwara is a half-marathon ace with a 58:48 personal best, and Biwott was the Paris Marathon champion in 2012 and finished second at London last year.
“Having the current and former world-record holders in the same race, going stride for stride for the first time, is a real coup for us on our 35th anniversary, and a thrilling prospect for marathon fans,” observed race director Brasher through a news release. “Wilson is familiar with our course and showed last year why he is already regarded as one of the greatest marathon runners of all time. But Dennis arrives as a history-maker after making headlines around the world a few months ago. It would take a brave man to predict which one will be left standing on April 26.”
The Ethiopian squad for London is nearly as strong as Kenya’s, led by three-time Olympic gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele, who won last year’s Paris Marathon in a career best 2:05:04 (he was also fourth at Chicago). Also in the field is Olympian Ayele Abshero (2:04:23 PB), 2014 Dubai Marathon champion Tsegaye Mekonnen (2:04:32) and 2013 Rotterdam Marathon champion Tilahun Regassa (2:05:27).
The best Europeans to enter are Sergey Lebid of Ukraine (2:08:32 PB), Aleksey Reunkov of Russia (2:09:54), Marcin Chabowski of Poland (2:10:07), Koen Raymaekers of the Netherlands (2:10:35), Scott Overall of Great Britain (2:10:55) and Javier Guerra of Spain (2:12:21). Michael Shelley of Australia, the 2014 Commonwealth Games Marathon champion, is also entered (2:11:15). The London Marathon hasn’t had a European winner since Antonio Pinto of Portugal in 2000.
Britain’s double-Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, who made his marathon debut in the London race last year, is not entered.
The 2014 London Marathon had 35,798 finishers, making it the second-largest marathon in Europe behind Paris (39,116).