Olympic Marathons 2012 World Marathon Majors preview

August 2nd 2012�August 5th welcomes the Women's Marathon to the 2012 London Olympic Games, and one week later on August 12th the Men's Olympic Marathon will take place. Key points are at stake for the 2011-2012 Women's and Men's World Marathon Majors Series, and at the Series conclusion in November, the top marathoners in the WMM Series will each earn $500,000 based on their points' total.

The Olympic Marathon Course was designed by David Bedford (former 10,000m world record holder, and former Virgin London Marathon race director) and consists of a 2.2-mile loop, followed by three 8-mile loops, starting and finishing in The Mall with the spectacular backdrop of Buckingham Palace. The course is a travelogue of the city, passing several major London landmarks. With many twists and turns, up-hills and down-hills, course knowledge is essential for this technical but fast course. Experts believe the Olympic Marathon records could be challenged on this course.

Surely a race to whet the appetite of the true marathon fan. The race includes three of the top four in the current WMM Series standings: Mary Keitany (Kenya), two-time winner of the Virgin London Marathon (2011-2012); versus Liliya Shobukhova (Russia) the two-time WMM Series champion (2009-2010 and 2010-2011) and three-time Bank of America Chicago Marathon Champion (2009-2011); versus Edna Kiplagat (Kenya), 2011 IAAF World Champion and winner of the 2010 ING New York City Marathon. Can anyone try to challenge this trio for a medal? Maybe Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia), winner of the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon in a national record 2:18:58, or Shalane Flanagan (USA), the U.S. Olympic Trials champion. Or will someone come out of nowhere like Romania's Constantina Dita in Beijing in 2008?

Of the top 10 in the current WMM Series standings, only three athletes are racing in the Olympic Marathon: Kenya's trio of Wilson Kipsang, the 2012 Virgin London Marathon champion; Abel Kirui, the two-time IAAF World Champion (2009 and 2011); and Emmanuel Mutai, the 2011 Virgin London Marathon champion and 2010-2011 WMM Series winner. Given that, we could see a huge change in the WMM standings prior to the Fall 2012 races at the BMW Berlin Marathon on September 30th, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7th, and the Series finale on November 4th at the ING New York City Marathon.

Can anyone beat the three Kenyans? The greatest challenge will most likely come from the rival Ethiopian team of Ayele Abshero, Getu Feleke and Dino Sefir, who all registered sub-2:05 marathon performances. Outside of these six athletes, it's difficult to see anyone else challenging for a medal. But that is why they hold the race.

Race reports and updated WMM Series standings will follow the respective Olympic Marathons on August 5th and 12th.