The men’s field for Sunday’s 2023 TCS London Marathon features four of the fastest five athletes in marathon history.
The great Kenenisa Bekele tops the list with the 2:01:41 he ran in Berlin in 2019, but he is closely followed by an athlete whose own sub 2:02 time came just last December.
Kelvin Kiptum admitted to the media in Thursday’s press conference that he had been aiming for something around 2:03 when he took on the 2022 Valencia Marathon. Instead, he clocked 2:01:53 to move to third on the all-time list and become the fastest marathon debutant in history.
“I ran sub-59 for a half, so I knew I could do it, and the race was perfect,” said Kiptum, who registered 58:24 for 13.1 miles – also in Valencia – in 2020.
It brought into sharp focus the prospect that Kiptum could threaten Eliud Kipchoge’s world record, but the 23-year-old dismissed the notion that it could happen on Sunday.
“I’m not ready for a world record now,” he said, but at his tender age, the progression curve he could go on is frightening. Kipchoge was well into his 30s before he claimed his first world record.
With wet weather currently forecast for the duration of the elite races, records may be off the table anyway.
Kiptum will be bidding to dethrone reigning London champion Amos Kipruto, who was in bullish spirits as he looked forward to the defence of his title.
“Last year was a really nice race for me,” he said. “For Sunday I’m looking to run a good race and I’m happy to be in with the fastest guys. It will be tough for me and everyone, but I’m ready.”
Kipruto made the podium in Tokyo behind Kipchoge when he ran 2:03:13 in March last year, before storming to victory on The Mall in October in 2:04:39.
The field also contains Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola, who became world champion in 2022 and has run here twice before. “It’s not new for me, London," he said.
"I’ve run here a lot of times and I’ve prepared well. I want to run to a fast time again, maybe a PB on Sunday.”
The leading men will be sharing the road with home crowd favorite Mo Farah who makes his last appearance in the event. Farah claimed a podium spot in London in 2018, with his only 26.2-mile victory coming in Chicago later that year.
“Mo is an inspiration for the younger generation like us,” said Kipruto. I’m looking forward to running with him on Sunday. I wish him good luck.”