Majors’ fall fields ready to thrill

The Abbott World Marathon Majors are just a couple of weeks away, with Berlin ready to get the fall season going in spectacular fashion.

The German capital will welcome back the great Eliud Kipchoge for the first time since his world record run there in 2018, with all eyes on the three-time series champion to discover if he can produce another history-making performance.

The series then rolls straight into London and Chicago on the following two weekends, which will stretch the powers of endurance and recovery for the wheelchair athletes planning to compete across all three races, before a brief pause ahead of the Series XIV finale in New York City in November.

Here are the five stories we'll be keeping a close eye on as the racing takes to the roads.

1. Can Kipchoge crack his own record?

It seemed scarcely believable at the time when Kipchoge stormed his way to a world record 2:01:39 at the BMW BERLIN MARATHON. And yet, it’s now entirely within the realms of possibility that he could shatter that mark on September 25.

Just one year later, Kenenisa Bekele came close to lowering it on the same course, eventually missing the target by two agonising seconds. Then came Vienna, where Kipchoge broke two hours under controlled conditions that didn’t count for world record purposes, but showed at least that his body and mind were capable of going quicker than the time he set in 2018.

Since then he has added a second Olympic crown to his resume and also obliterated the Tokyo course record earlier this year. In the right conditions, a fully fit and healthy Kipchoge has to be a good bet for taking aim at his own PB.

2. Who can halt Hug’s dominance?

After relinquishing his series crown in 2019, Marcel Hug came roaring back to return to the top of the pile in 2021. Hug racked up four Paralympic golds to go alongside wins in Berlin, London, Boston and New York to relieve Daniel Romanchuk of the title.

He has shown already that he is in no mood to give it back in 2022, winning in Tokyo in the absence of Romanchuk in dominant fashion. Romanchuk did get the better of the Silver Bullet in Chicago last year, out-muscling the Swiss in the final mile, so there are chinks in the armor for the young American to exploit. He also recorded victory in Boston this year with Hug missing from the field. It's all to play for in the final four races.

3. Who will win clash of the champions?

The 2022 TCS New York City Marathon women’s field pits the reigning world champion directly against the current Olympic champion. Get the popcorn ready for this one. Gotytom Gebreslase has emerged as a genuine threat to the very best, winning her first Major in Berlin in 2021 and snatching the world title in Eugene this summer.

She perhaps now faces her sternest test in the form of Peres Jepchirchir, who swept the Olympic gold medal and New York City title in 2021, proving she can triumph in extreme heat and recover in time to conquer the Big Apple’s undulations.

She then dusted Joyciline Jepkosgei in the final straight of the 2022 Boston Marathon to prove she can handle a one-on-one street fight as well. The AbbottWMM Series XIV title could also be on the line by the time these two line up on Staten Island. 

4. Is there a changing of the guard in the women’s wheelchair series?

Manuela Schär has plundered the last three series titles in the elite women’s wheelchair division, but we head into the fall season with a degree of uncertainty about the champion’s shape. Schär suffered a broken leg following her Boston victory and has not had the same preparation time as her rivals leading into a busy schedule.

Tatyana McFadden may well be sensing the chance to reclaim her throne, and will be straining at the leash after having to withdraw from Boston so close to race day ealrier this year.

Tatyana McFadden, Madison DeRozario and Manuela Schär will do battle thise season

Madison de Rozario, the 2021 New York champion and reigning Paralympic champion, will certainly have something to say about where the title goes, and they will all be glancing around to check on the up-and-coming Merle Menje, who has already earned podium finishes as a teenager, and will be eager to impress on home soil in Berlin. Susannah Scaroni has also been performing well this year and is another athlete who could challenge the established order this season.

5. Can Bekele roll back the years?

Ever since clocking 2:01:41 in Berlin in 2019, Kenenisa Bekele has been back among the big hitters on the Abbott World Marathon Majors circuit. He took on a daunting Berlin/New York double in 2021 and was unable to score victory in either event, coming third in Berlin and sixth in New York.

He was due to take to the roads again in Boston in April, but withdrew with an injury. So now he returns to London, where he has not raced since 2018 when he came sixth. Now past his 40th birthday, the clock is surely ticking on the career of the greatest distance runner of them all. He faces last year’s London champion Sisay Lemma and another seriously quick Ethiopian in two-time Tokyo champion Birhanu Legese.

These were the two athletes Bekele stormed past in Berlin three years ago after appearing to be dead and buried, before he narrowly missed out on breaking the world record. That Lazarus-like performance will surely be at the back of minds of all three men as the race unfolds in October. You just cannot count this man out.