London - Triple Olympic track champion Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest
marathon runner in history, will make another attempt at claiming the
world record over the classic 26.2 mile distance when he leads a stellar
field for the London marathon in April.
Ethiopian Bekele, widely regarded as the greatest distance runner of all
time and world record holder over 10 000m and 5 000m, ran 2:03:03 when winning Berlin last
September, six seconds outside Dennis Kimetto's world record of 2:02:57
set on the same course in 2014.
Having been left out of the Ethiopian team for the Rio Olympics a month
earlier it was a clear message from Bekele that he had mastered the
marathon after initially producing very good, but not world
best-threatening times in his first forays over the distance.
The 34-year-old, with five track world titles to his name over 10 000m
and 5 000m, finished third in London last year behind Kenyan duo Eliud
Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott and Kipchoge's course record of 2:03:05 and
Kimetto's world mark will both be in his sights.
"London is the greatest marathon in the world and I would love to win
there," Bekele said in a statement issued by race organisers revealing
the line-up on Monday.
"The field is always the best and victory means
so much. After finishing third last year, I know what I need to do to
Biwott, who won the 2015 New York City marathon, is likely to be
Bekele's main rival as he leads the Kenyan challenge in the absence of
two-time champion Kipchoge. Biwott finished runner-up in 2014, fourth in
2015 and second again last year in a personal best of 2:03:51.
The leading pair are two of seven in the field who have run under 2:06,
while the race will also feature two marathon world champions, three of
the top five finishers from last summer's Olympics, and the winners of
the Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New
York in 2016.
Abel Kirui, who won the world marathon title in 2011 and 2013, returns
to London for the first time since 2012 when he was fifth, four months
before winning Olympic silver in the same city.
Eritrean Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, who became the youngest world marathon
champion when he took the 2015 world title in Beijing at 19, also runs.