Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele tops the list of world class contenders for the men’s elite race on the 2017 London Marathon. Already a triple Olympic champion and double world record holder on the track, Kenenisa became the world’s second fastest marathon runner of all time when he won the 2016 Berlin Marathon last September.
He missed the world record by just six seconds when he crossed the line in the German capital in two hours three minutes three seconds after a thrilling battle with former world record holder Wilson Kipsang. It was the fastest marathon in the world in 2016 and broke Haile Gebrselassie’s Ethiopian record, sending a powerful message to the selectors who had left him out of Ethiopia’s team for the Rio Olympic Games.
Now Kenenisa aims to strike another blow for his country as he seeks to become only the third Ethiopian man ever to win the coveted London Marathon title and the first since two-time winner Tsegaye Kebede in 2013.
Kenenisa Bekele made his London Marathon debut last April when he ran an impressive race to finish third behind Kenyan duo of Eliud Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott despite not being fully fit. Now regarded as one of the true marathon elites, he will have Eliud Kipchoge’s course record of 2:03:05 in his sights, and perhaps even Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57.
“London is the greatest marathon in the world and I would love to win there,” said Kenenisa. “The field is always the best and victory means so much. After finishing third last year, I know what I need to do to win.”
Stanley Biwott, who won the 2015 New York City Marathon, finished runner-up in 2014, fourth in 2015 and second again last year in a personal best of 2:03:51. He was set to be Kenenisa’s main rival this year but has been forced to pull out of the race with a persistent hamstring injury.
However, Kenenisa will still face five opponents who have run marathons quicker than 2:06, while the field contains two marathon world champions, three of the top five finishers from last summer’s Olympic Games, and the winners of the Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York in 2016.
As ever, the main contenders come from east Africa with the Ethiopian contingent especially strong. Kenenisa Bekele’s compatriots include Rio Olympic silver medalist and 2016 Tokyo Marathon champion Feyisa Lilesa, the 2016 Dubai and Hamburg Marathon champion Tesfaye Abera, and Tilahun Regassa, who is aiming to make the London podium after finishing fifth and sixth in the last two years.
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