Kenyan men have won the London Marathon the highest number of times since its inception in 1981, but this weekend’s elite field seems to favor the Ethiopians. Of the seven runners with personal best times of under 2:05:00, there is just one Kenyan, Amos Kipruto, and one Belgian, Bashir Abdi, while all the rest are Ethiopians.
Kenenisa Bekele, who currently holds the Ethiopian national records in the 5000m, the 10,000m, and the marathon, is the fastest runner on the start list, with the 2019 Berlin Marathon winning time of 2:01:41 making him the second fastest marathon runner in history, behind Eliud Kipchoge.
Until last weekend, Bekele was only two seconds away from breaking Kipchoge’s world record. But, perhaps feeling uncomfortable with someone hovering so close to his treasure, Kipchoge moved the world record further away after running 2:01:09 to win the 2022 Berlin Marathon.
Bekele will be running his first race as an M40 masters’ category runner. So, most probably, he will also be having his eyes on the masters’ world record time of 2:06:25 that was set by Ayad Lamdassem of Spain earlier this year at the Seville Marathon as part of his plan B for the race.
Sisay Lemma is the defending champion after he won the race last year in 2:04:01. The other advantage he has is that he now knows the London Marathon course very well, having also finished 3rd in 2020. He has also won the Frankfurt (2015) and the Ljubljana (2018) marathons.
His personal best time of 2:03:36, which he ran to finish 3rd at the Berlin Marathon in 2019, makes him the fourth fastest on the start list, together with Abdi, who has the exact personal best time.
Abdi has consistently been on the podium of big marathons. He is the reigning bronze medalist from the 2020 Olympics and the 2022 World Championships and runner-up at the 2020 Tokyo Marathon. However, his only major win was at the Rotterdam Marathon in October last year, where he ran his personal best time.
With a personal best time of 2:02:48, which he ran to finish second at the 2019 Berlin Marathon, Birhanu Legese has the second fastest time on paper here; behind the same person he had finished behind in Berlin. His second personal best time of 2:03:16, which he ran to finish third at the 2020 Valencia Marathon, shows that he can repeatedly run some fantastic times when he is in good form.
The only Kenyan in the elite field, Amos Kipruto, is the third fastest with a personal best time of 2:03:13 which he ran in March this year to finish second behind Kipchoge at the Tokyo Marathon. So probably, the Seoul and Roma Marathon champion could gather some confidence in the fact that Kipchoge, who had run 2:02:40 a few seconds ahead of him, just improved that to a new world record a week before he could hopefully be able to improve on his time as well.
Kinde Atanaw has not been in the form he was in 2019 when he ran his personal best time of 2:03:51 to win the Valencia Marathon. But, he has been in the top ten positions in some big marathons, including 10th at the Boston Marathon in April this year.
Despite being the slowest of the sub 2:05:00 runners on the start list, with a personal best time of 2:04:02, which he ran to finish second at the Dubai Marathon in 2018, Leul Gebresilase has been a bit consistent in his latest races; the latest being a 2nd position in April at the Rotterdam Marathon this year.