Britain's double Olympic and world champion Mo Farah will face some of the greatest marathon runners of all time when he makes his full marathon debut at this year's Virgin Money London Marathon.
Farah races over 26.2 miles for the first time on Sunday 13 April when he will join an elite men's field that includes marathon world-record holder Wilson Kipsang, Olympic and world marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, reigning London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede, and London course record holder Emmanuel Mutai.
Farah ran the first half of the race in 2013 to assess the course and opposition in preparation for his full marathon debut this April. He went on to win the World Championships 10,000m title in Moscow last August before retaining his world 5000m crown, adding another global track double to his twin Olympic triumphs from London 2012.
The 30-year-old then ran his fastest half marathon when second in the Great North Run last September and has since been training hard for his first marathon race.
�"I gained a lot of valuable experience running part of the course alongside the top guys last year and can't wait to race over the full distance this April," said Farah, who will have an eye on the long-standing UK record of two hours seven minutes 13 seconds.
�"The London Marathon always attracts the world's best runners to its elite fields and this year will be no different.. I am expecting it to be one of my toughest races and a real learning experience.
�"I had another great year on the track in 2013, but the marathon is my main focus for this year. As a young boy growing up in London it has always been my ambition to run the London Marathon and to be able to make my marathon debut in my home town is very special."
It will be even more special if Farah can reward his British fans with victory, but the debutant will come up against an experienced field that includes three men who have run quicker than two hours four minutes and six who have broken 2:05.
Quickest of the lot is Wilson Kipsang, the Kenyan who broke the world record when he won last September's Berlin Marathon in 2:03:23.
Kipsang will be keen to regain the London Marathon title he won in 2012 just a few months before claiming the bronze medal at the London Olympics.
Kipsang was fifth in last year's race when Tsegaye Kebede triumphed here for the second time, the Ethiopian coming from behind in a dramatic finish to regain the crown he first won in 2010. Kebede is the sole non-Kenyan to win the men's race in the last 10 years and his aim in 2014 is to become the fourth man to win the title three times.
Kebede ran his personal best of 2:04:38 to win the 2012 Chicago Marathon and he clinched the 2012/13 half-million dollar World Marathon Majors prize when he was second in the New York City Marathon last November.
The second quickest man in the field is Emmanuel Mutai who set the course record when he won the London Marathon in 2011. The Kenyan looked odds on to win again last year until Kebede overtook him in the final mile. Mutai was runner-up again in last October's Chicago Marathon when he clocked 2:03:52 to become the fourth fastest man of all time.
His namesake, Geoffrey Mutai, will also be among the favourites after running the fastest marathon ever in 2011. He won the Boston Marathon that year in 2:03:02, although it did not qualify as an official record because of the nature of the Boston course.
One of the most consistent men on the marathon circuit, Mutai also won the 2012 Berlin Marathon in 2:04:15 his best time on a legitimate course and has twice triumphed in the New York City Marathon in recent years. He dropped out on his London debut last April so will be keen to make amends this time.
Kebede will be joined by two other super-quick Ethiopians who also return to London with realistic hopes of victory.
Ayele Abshero produced a sensational debut when he won the 2012 Dubai Marathon in 2:04:23 and he reached the London podium last year when he was third. That was one place ahead of his compatriot, Feyisa Lilesa, the 2011 world bronze medallist who produced his best time when second at the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
Farah will be keeping a wary eye on another Ethiopian, Ibrahim Jeilan, who will also make his marathon debut in London. The pair have fought out a fierce track rivalry in recent years Jeilan beat Farah to the 2011 world 10,000m title in Daegu, but the Briton got his revenge in Moscow last summer.
Stephen Kiprotich will again be one to watch as the Ugandan returns to London just eight months after adding the world marathon title to the Olympic crown he claimed in spectacular fashion on The Mall in August 2012. The Ugandan will be hoping to make the podium this time after finishing sixth here last April.
The Kenyan challenge is completed by Stanley Biwott, the 2012 Paris Marathon champion who was eighth in London last April, and Martin Mathathi, winner of the 2013 Fukuoka Marathon. The field also includes Marilson dos Santos of Brazil, the two-times New York champion who was fourth here in 2011.
Farah will be joined three fellow Britons, including his former training partners, Scott Overall and Chris Thompson.
Overall made an impressive marathon debut when he was fifth in the 2011 Berlin Marathon and represented Britain at the London 2012 Olympics, but he dropped out of the London Marathon last year and will be keen to make a better impression this time.
Like Farah, Thompson will tackle the marathon for the first time after an impressive career on the track, including a 10,000m silver medal at the 2010 European championships. Another Briton, Ben Livesey will also make his full marathon debut after moving up to the half marathon in 2013.
London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher said: �"We are delighted to announce another superb elite men's field for the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon, a line-up containing the usual array of record breakers, global champions and worldwide marathon winners.
�"Of course, much attention in Britain will focus on the performance of Mo Farah and we are very pleased that he has chosen London to make his marathon debut. But it will be an extremely tough challenge for Mo with the quality of the elite field as high as ever.
�"The London Marathon is rightly known as one of the hardest races in the world to win, and the line-up of world-class talent we are announcing today shows that 2014 will be no exception."
2014 Elite Men's Field and Personal Bests:
Wilson Kipsang (KEN), 2:03:23, World-record holder
Emmanuel Mutai (KEN), 2:03:52, London Marathon record holder
Geoffrey Mutai (KEN), 2:04:15*, 2013 New York City Marathon champion
Ayele Abshero (ETH), 2:04:23, 2012 Dubai Marathon champion
Feyisa Lilesa (ETH), 2:04:32, 2011 world bronze medallist
Tsegaye Kebede (ETH), 2:04:38, 2013 London Marathon champion
Stanley Biwott (KEN), 2:05:12, 2012 Paris Marathon champion
Marilson dos Santos (BRA), 2:06:34, Two-times New York City Marathon champion
Martin Mathathi (KEN), 2:07:16, 2013 Fukuoka Marathon champion
Stephen Kiprotich (UGA), 2:07:20, World and Olympic marathon champion
Samuel Tsegay (ERI), 2:07:28
Mustapha El Aziz (MAR), 2:07:55
Amanuel Mesel (ERI), 2:08:17
Scott Overall (GBR), 2:10:55
Ryan Vail (USA), 2:11:45
Mo Farah (GBR), Debut, World & Olympic 5000m & 10,000m champion
Ibrahim Jeilan (ETH), Debut, 2011 World 10,000m champion
Chris Thompson (GBR), Debut
Ben Livesey (GBR), Debut
*Geoffrey Mutai ran 2:03:02 at the 2011 Boston Marathon but this time is ineligible as Boston is run on a point-to-point downhill course (drop of 139m overall)