Last year, Geoffrey Kamworor dropped the hammer on fellow Kenyan Wilson Kipsang as they wound through Central Park in the final stretch of the TCS New York City Marathon. With a powerful kick, Kamworor broke the tape in 2:10.53. This year, he hopes to defend his title.

The men’s open division includes nine Olympians and three World Major champs. To win, Kamworor would have to beat both the field and a bit of history. He’d be the first man to win consecutive titles since John Kaqwe, who accomplished the feat 20 years ago.* But he’s proven himself as a tough competitor. At 25 years old, he has three consecutive IAAF Half Marathon Championships, three World Cross Country titles and a 2:06.12 marathon PR from 2012.

A top U.S. contender, Bernard Lagat, also has an impressive range, but will be debuting at the marathon distance. At 43, the five-time Olympian and five-time World Champion surprised himself with a 1:02 half-marathon PR (and over-40 American Record) this year. While the leap to 26.2 miles is a gamble, he’s beaten the odds before.

Among the fastest marathoners in the field, three Ethiopians boast 2:04 seed times. Lelisa Desisa, 28, who won the Boston Marathon in both 2013 and 2015, DNF’d in the cold, wet carnage there in April. He ran a 59:52 half in September and, as last year’s third-place finisher in NYC, should be ready to compete. Tamirat Tola, 27, set his 2:04.06 personal best with a third-place finish in Dubai this year (and also DNF’d at Boston). But he’s won Olympic Bronze in the 10K and silver at the IAFF World Marathon Championships. Shura Kitata, 22, set his 2:04.49 PR as runner-up in this year’s London Marathon.

Others to watch include four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, 40, who finished 7th in the Big Apple last year as the top US finisher (as well as the oldest male runner to podium at the event). He’s been training with Lagat and Mexican Olympian Juan Luis Barrios in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Daniel Wanjiru, 26, of Kenya, should be hungry for a higher finish after an 8th-place finish in London (where he won in 2017). Shadrack Biwott, US, 33, finished on the podium in Boston and 5th in NYC in 2016. Other American racers to keep an eye on include Olympian Jared Ward, Scott Smith and Scott Fauble.

Podium Predictions: Geoffrey Kamworor, Lelisa Desisa, Tamirat Tola

*Editor’s Note: Geoffrey Mutai won two consecutive titles more recently but over a three-year span. The New York City Marathon was cancelled in 2012 but he won in 2011 and 2013.