Champions return to defend their London titles
Reigning champions Sammy Wanjiru and Irina Mikitenko will return to defend their London Marathon titles next April against two of the strongest fields ever assembled in the 29-year history of the race.
Wanjiru smashed the course record last April when he added the London crown to his Beijing Olympic gold, while Mikitenko will be chasing a rare triple after she retained her title in superb style in 2009. The German is aiming to become only the second woman ever to win three London marathons in a row following fellow-German Katrin Dorre's trio of victories from 1992 to 1994.
Yet both champions face stern tests if they are to repeat their triumphs on Sunday 25 April next year.
Despite his brilliant win in a personal best of 2 hours 5 minutes 10 seconds this year, Wanjiru will be only the third quickest in the 2010 men's field.
The line-up includes no fewer than six men who have run faster than 2:05:30, including reigning World champion Abel Kirui and three-times London winner Martin Lel, both of Kenya, plus world and Olympic bronze medallist Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia, who was second in London last year, and former double-world champion Jaouad Gharib of Morocco, who was third.
Quickest of the lot, however, is Kenyan record holder Duncan Kibet, the second fastest marathon runner of all time thanks to his 2:04:27 victory in Rotterdam this year. Like Kirui, Kibet will be making his London Marathon debut.
�"I am delighted to be returning to London again," said Wanjiru, the 23-year-old Kenyan who was crowned World Marathon Majors champion in November. �"I will be doing my best to defend my title after I worked so hard to win it last year. London always has the world's best athletes but with opponents such as Duncan, Abel and Martin it will be even tougher this time."
There are many other likely challengers among the 16-strong elite field, including sub-2:07 World silver medallist Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya, plus two-times New York Marathon champion Marilson Dos Santos of Brazil.
Two Eritreans Yonas Kifle, and the triple World Half Marathon champion Zersenay Tadese will also be in the hunt for medals, while the Asian challenge comes from a trio of Japanese runners the Matsumiya twins, Yuko and Takayuki, and Yusei Nakao.
Britain's hopes of a decent showing rest with Dan Robinson, the Commonwealth Games silver medallist, and Andrew Lemoncello, a former steeplchaser making his debut over 26 miles 385 yards.
Competition in the women's race will be equally fierce. While Mikitenko heads the field with her German record of 2:19:19, the World Marathon Majors champion faces stiff opposition from Romania's Olympic title holder Constantina Dita, all three medallists from the Berlin World Championships, and Britain's Mara Yamauchi who produced a brilliant performance in 2009 to finish second just a minute behind the German in a personal best of 2:23:12.
�"My goal is to win a third London Marathon and equal Katrin's record," said the 37-year-old Mikitenko. �"I love running in London and I am determined to be fit and ready for the challenge, although I know it will be difficult against such strong opponents."
In all, six athletes in the 19-strong field have broken 2:22 while 12 have run faster than 2:25. Athens Olympic medallist Deena Kastor is the second fastest in the field, and the American will be keen to repeat her 2006 London victory when she set a US record of 2:19:36.
New York silver medallist Lyudmila Petrova has the third quickest time. She is one of five strong Russians, including fellow veteran Svetlana Zakharova, three-times a silver medallist in London, Liliya Shobukhova, the 2009 Chicago champion and third here last year, and Inga Abitova, winner of the recent Yokohama marathon.
There's also a phalanx of fast Ethiopians, including the Berlin champion, Atsede Habtamu, the 2009 Dubai champion, Bezunesh Bekele, the World Championships bronze medallist, Mergia Aselefech, and former Paris champion Magarsa Assale Tafa.
World champion Bai Xue of China leads the Asian threat, along with World silver medallist Yoshimi Ozaki and her Japanese teammate Yukiko Akaba. Two New Zealanders, Kim Smith and Fiona Docherty, and South African Tanith Maxwell make up the field.
Virgin London Marathon race director David Bedford said: �"We are delighted to welcome our two champions back to head such high quality races. These elite fields are as good as any we've had in the previous 29 London Marathons, and I am sure they will produce two superb contests for the London crowds."
The full elite fields and their best times
Samuel Wanjiru KEN 2:05:10
Duncan Kibet KEN 2:04:27
Abel Kirui KEN 2:05:04
Martin Lel KEN 2:05:15
Tsegaye Kebede ETH 2:05:20
Jaouad Gharib MAR 2:05:27
Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:06:15
Yonas Kifle ERI 2:07:34
Marilson Dos Santos BRA 2:08:37
Abdi Abdirahman USA 2.08.56
Yuko Matsumiya JPN 2:09:18
Takayuki Matsumiya JPN 2:10:04
Dan Robinson GBR 2:12:14
Yusei Nakao JPN 2:14:23
Zersenay Tadese ERI DNF (London 09)
Andrew Lemoncello GBR debut
Irina Mikitenko GER 2:19:19
Deena Kastor USA 2:19:36
Lyudmila Petrova RUS 2:21:29
Constantina Dita ROU 2:21:30
Svetlana Zakharova RUS 2:21:31
Magarsa Assale Tafa ETH 2:21:31
Bezunesh Bekele ETH 2:23:09
Mara Yamauchi GBR 2:23:12
Bai Xue CHN 2:23:27
Yoshimi Ozaki JPN 2:23:30
Liliya Shobukhova RUS 2:24:24
Atsede Habtamu ETH 2:24:47
Mergia Aselefech ETH 2:25:02
Yukiko Akaba JPN 2:25:40
Inga Abitova RUS 2:25:55
Tanith Maxwell RSA 2:36:38
Fiona Docherty NZL 2:40:18
Kim Smith NZL DNF (New York 08)
Maria Konovalova RUS debut