Next eventWorld Athletics Label Road RacesDawei 20231 Oct 2023

Previews30 Sep 2022

Yehualaw takes on defending champion Jepkosgei in high quality London clash


Yalemzerf Yehualaw celebrates her performance at the Haspa Marathon Hamburg (© NN Running Team)

Ethiopia’s world 10km record-holder Yalemzerf Yehualaw and defending TCS London Marathon champion Joyciline Jepkosgei headline an incredibly deep women’s line-up for the World Athletics Elite Platinum road race on Sunday (2).

Seven women in the field have PBs faster than 2:19, while three of those – Yehualaw and Jepkosgei included – have bettered 2:17.

Yehualaw heads to the British capital undefeated in all four of her road races this year. She only made her marathon debut as recently as April, winning in Hamburg with 2:17:23 – the fastest marathon debut in history. Earlier in the year she had set a world 10km record of 29:14, while more recently she warmed up for London with a 1:04:22 victory at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon in late August.

Jepkosgei has raced just once this year, placing seventh at the Boston Marathon in April, but her past record underlines her status as a formidable opponent. She won in London last year in 2:17:43, her second victory in a marathon major, having also won in New York in 2019.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei have clashed just once before, at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, where Yehualaw finished three places ahead of the Kenyan. But in a non-championship race over double the distance, the outcome on Sunday could be quite different.

Ashete Bekere is the third woman in the field with a sub-2:18 PB. The 2019 Berlin winner placed second in Tokyo earlier this year in 2:17:58. Having finished fourth in London in 2020 and third in 2021, she will be aiming to continue that trajectory with a top-two finish on Sunday.

Former half marathon specialist Joan Chelimo Melly finally got to grips with the marathon earlier this year, setting a Romanian record of 2:18:04 to win in Seoul. She placed seventh in London last year, but is an improved runner since then.

Sutume Asefa Kebede finished a close second to Melly in Seoul, clocking a PB of 2:18:12. The 27-year-old Ethiopian has contested nine marathons to date, winning one of them (Beijing in 2019), but this will be her first in London.

Kenya’s Judith Jeptum Korir was a late addition to the field but is still one to watch. Earlier this year she won in Paris with a course record of 2:19:48, then improved on that mark to take silver at the World Championships in Eugene, clocking a PB of 2:18:20. She has finished in the top two of all seven of her marathons to date, winning five of them.

Ethiopia’s Alemu Megertu and Hiwot Gebrekidan, who have set respective PBs this year of 2:18:51 and 2:19:10 add even further depth to the high quality field.

Mary Ngugi’s PB may not be as fast as some of her rivals, but this will be her first run on one of the faster big city courses. Two successive third-place finishes in Boston underlines the Kenyan’s pedigree.

Others in the field include Britain’s Charlotte Purdue and Japanese duo Reia Iwade and Ai Hosoda.

Despite some late withdrawals, the men’s race should still be a highly competitive one.

An Ethiopian victory seems fairly likely as the five fastest athletes in the field – including multiple global champion Kenenisa Bekele and defending champion Sisay Lemma all hail from the East African nation. But recent form is important too, and Kenya’s Amos Kipruto and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi carry plenty of that into Sunday’s race.

Lemma, who won in the British capital last year in 2:04:01, has reached the podium in his past four marathon majors. The Ethiopian has a PB of 2:03:36 and will be keen to get close to – or improve on – that on Sunday.

Bekele ran two marathons in quick succession last year, finishing third in Berlin (2:06:47) and sixth in New York City (2:12:52). He warmed up for London with a 1:01:01 clocking at the recent Great North Run. It doesn’t suggest he’s in form to match his 2:01:41 PB, but he should still be competitive.

Two-time Tokyo Marathon winner Birhanu Legese finished fifth in London last year, but hasn’t raced at all since then. His 2:02:48 PB dates back to his runner-up finish at the 2019 Berlin Marathon. Fellow Ethiopian Kinde Atanaw also has a PB from 2019, his 2:03:51 set when winning in Valencia on his marathon debut. He was 10th in Boston earlier this year, but the London course may be more to his liking.

Leul Gebresilase is another athlete whose PB dates back to his marathon debut. He clocked 2:04:02 in Dubai back in 2018, then went on to win in Valencia later that year. Highly consistent around the 2:05 mark, Gebresilase sas second in Rotterdam this year in 2:04:56.

Kipruto, the 2019 world bronze medallist, set a PB of 2:03:13 in Tokyo earlier this year when finishing second to Eliud Kipchoge, just 33 seconds adrift of the legendary Kenyan. Another run like that from Kipruto would be difficult to beat.

Abdi has proven himself to be capable of performing well at major championships and in big city marathons. When he last raced in London, back in 2019, he set a national record of 2:07:03. Now a world and Olympic bronze medallist, Abdi set a European record of 2:03:36 at the 2021 Rotterdam Marathon.

Japan’s Naoki Okamoto, Naoki Aiba and Kohei Futaoka add further depth to the field, as does Australia’s Brett Robinson.