Kimetto takes on Kirui as Kiplagat seeks Chicago triple
Series XI of the Abbott World Marathon Majors resumes this Sunday, October 8, when world record holder Dennis Kimetto returns to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for the first time since demolishing the course record in 2013.
Kimetto takes on defending champion Abel Kirui, 2015 TCS New York City Marathon winner Stanley Biwott, and Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa as the men search for points in the global 12-month challenge for the world's best marathon runners.
Kimetto clocked 2:03:45 in the windy city four years ago and the following year became the first man in history to break 2:03 when he set the world record of 2:02:57 in Berlin.
But the former farmer from Kenya has struggled to find his form since then, finishing ninth in the Virgin Money London Marathon earlier this year.
By contrast, Kirui's career has revived in the last 12 months. He triumphed in Chicago last year after a tactical battle and a narrow sprint victory over 2015 champion Dickson Chumba. The former double world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist went on to place fourth in London this April and currently sits 10th on the Series XI leaderboard with four points.
Biwott will hope to make his mark on the standings after enduring a lean 18 months since he placed runner-up behind Eliud Kipchoge at the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon. He later dropped out of the Olympic marathon in Rio and hasn't contested a full marathon since.
Lilesa's performance in Rio was altogether more eye-catching as the Ethiopian chased Kipchoge to the finish line where he made a gesture of protest against the Ethiopian government that led to his exile in the United States.
Lilesa ran his career best in Chicago when he was second in 2012 and he won the Tokyo Marathon in 2016, but, after placing 12th in London this spring, he is seeking his first points in Series XI.
Former Amsterdam champion Bernard Kipyego will also be one to watch, as will USA's own Olympic bronze medallist and 2017 Boston runner-up Galen Rupp, and the world half marathon record holder Zersenay Tadese from Eritrea, whose official marathon best of 2:10:41 is long overdue for improvement.
Florence Kiplagat tops the entries for the women's race as she seeks a third successive Chicago Marathon victory in what promises to be a classic duel against 2017 London runner-up Tirunesh Dibaba.
Kiplagat's aggressive style has served her well on Chicago's flat and fast course, while the former world half marathon record holder has also won Berlin twice and placed second and third in London. She has yet to earn AbbottWMM Series XI points following her ninth place in the British capital this year.
Kiplagat has 12 career marathons behind her while Dibaba is a relative novice with just two. But the track legend looks poised to take the marathon world by storm after breaking the Ethiopian record in London this April when she clocked 2:17:56 to place second behind Mary Keitany's world record-breaking run.
The 16 points Dibaba picked up in London mean she lies equal fourth on the women's leaderboard and will move into an outright Series XI lead if she can finish in the top two.
Among those who will be trying to upset the big two are Valentine Kipketer who was third last year, rising US star Jordan Hasay who made the podium when she was third on her marathon debut in Boston this year, and Australia's Lisa Weightman who will aim for another top five finish after picking up one point when she was fifth in this year's London race.
The wheelchair fields are no less intriguing as Swiss duo Marcel Hug and Manuela Schär look to extend their leads at the top of their respective standings.
Hug bounced back from defeat to Britain's David Weir in London this April by dominating Berlin two weeks ago and the ‘Silver Bullet' will be the favorite to repeat last year's victory on Columbus Drive. He takes on five-time Chicago champion Kurt Fearnley of Australia and 10-time Boston Marathon champion Ernst van Dyk of South Africa.
A trio of talented Japanese athletes will also be hunting points in the men's race – Kota Hokinoue, who currently lies third, Ryota Yoshida, who is equal fourth, and Hiroki Nishida.
Schär hopes to maintain a perfect Series XI record after her commanding victories in London and Berlin. She is the athlete of the moment in women's marathon racing but she will be chased hard in Chicago by a trio of Americans – course record holder and Series X champion Tatyana McFadden, three-time Chicago champion Amanda McGrory, who lies second in the current table, and 2012 Chicago runner-up Susannah Scaroni, who lies fourth after placing third in London.
McFadden will feel she has something to prove. She missed the London Marathon in April after placing fourth in Boston where she had won four times in a row. Her preparation for both races was severely disrupted by blood clots and surgery.
She bounced back to win four gold medals at the World Para Athletics Championships in July and now looks to turn that track speed into winning form on the roads.