Previews21 Apr 2023

Defending champions Yehualaw and Kipruto face strong opponents in London


Yalemzerf Yehualaw wins the 2022 London Marathon (© AFP / Getty Images)

Last year’s TCS London Marathon winners Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Amos Kipruto will take on an incredibly strong field of runners at the World Athletics Platinum Label road race on Sunday (23).

The women’s line-up features 10 women who have broken 2:19 for the marathon, six of them with sub-2:18 PBs. The men’s field, meanwhile, contains six sub-2:04 performers.

Yehualaw made her marathon debut in April last year, clocking 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg. She followed that with a 2:17:26 triumph in London in October. But the 23-year-old Ethiopian, contesting just her third race at the classic distance, now faces her toughest marathon test to date as she takes on world record-holder Brigid Kosgei and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir.

In addition to that stellar trio, Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion Sifan Hassan will be making her marathon debut, taking on former track rivals Genzebe Dibaba and Almaz Ayana.

“I am so happy to be back in London, a beautiful city with a great competition,” said Yehualaw, who won over 10km in Valencia earlier this year with 29:19, just five seconds shy of her own world record. “My preparation has gone very well. I want to defend my title on Sunday and am ready to do my best.”

Kosgei, the winner in London in 2019 and 2020, admitted she may not be at her absolute best on Sunday, but she didn’t want to pass up the opportunity of racing in the British capital.

“I was well prepared, but then some weeks back I was suffering in my hamstring and in my knee,” said the Kenyan. “I think the injury has become not so bad, that is why I tried to come here.”

Hassan, who won the world 1500m and 10,000m titles in 2019, already has some experience on the roads. She set a European half marathon record of 1:05:15 in 2018, then ran two sub-66-minute half marathons in 2019.

“I am considering my plans for next year’s Paris Olympic Games with both the track and marathon options for me,” said the Dutch runner. “However, before I can make a final decision on which direction to go, I need to test myself over the marathon distance and I believe the best place for me to do that is in London with the best female marathon athletes around me.

“Stepping up to the marathon distance has always been in my plans and it doesn’t mean that I will be retiring from the track,” she added. “I am planning a track season this summer, but before that I’m really excited to be making my marathon debut at the TCS London Marathon. It will be a step into the unknown in many ways for me but I’m looking forward to it.”

Jepchirchir will be making her first appearance in London. The two-time world half marathon champion has won her past five marathons – a streak that includes the Olympic Games in 2021, the New York Marathon later that year, and the 2022 Boston Marathon.

Ayana and Dibaba made their marathon debuts in Amsterdam last year. Ayana, the 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion, won in a course record of 2:17:20, while world 1500m record-holder Dibaba was second in 2:18:05.

Berlin Marathon champion Tigist Assefa, USA’s Emily Sisson and Britain’s Eilish McColgan had all originally been set to compete but were both forced to withdraw.

Kipruto ready for clash with Kiptum

Defending champion Amos Kipruto is fired up to take on another strong field; one which includes Kenenisa Bekele and Kelvin Kiptum, the second and third-fastest runners in history. It will be the first time in history that two men with sub-2:02 PBs will be on the same start line.

“Winning last year’s TCS London Marathon was an incredible experience for me,” said the 30-year-old, who was second at last year’s Tokyo Marathon behind world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge and third in the 2019 World Championships. “London always has a really strong field and this year is the same so I know I will face a battle to defend my title, but I’m confident and looking forward to it.”

Bekele, the second-fastest man ever with a PB of 2:01:41, is one of the all-time greats of distance running. A multiple world champion on the track and cross country, the Ethiopian has focused on the roads in recent years.

Despite being almost 41 years of age, he finished fifth in London last year in 2:05:53.

Kiptum produced one of the biggest road running surprises of the year in 2022, winning the Valencia Marathon on his debut at the distance with 2:01:53 – a time that has only ever been bettered by Bekele and marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.

The 23-year-old Kenyan hasn’t raced since then, but the quality of the field assembled for London could help bring about further improvements.

World champion Tamirat Tola and fellow Ethiopians Birhanu Legese and Leul Gebresilase – the runner-up last year – add further depth to the field, as does two-time New York Marathon winner Geoffrey Kamworor.

Multiple world and Olympic champion Mo Farah, meanwhile, recently announced that this weekend’s race will be his final marathon.

Elite fields

Brigid Kosgei (KEN) 2:14:04
Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 2:17:16
Almaz Ayana (ETH) 2:17:20
Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) 2:17:23
Sheila Chepkirui (KEN) 2:17:29
Tadu Teshome (ETH) 2:17:36
Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) 2:18:05
Sutume Asefa Kebede (ETH) 2:18:12
Judith Jeptum Korir (KEN) 2:18:20
Alemu Megertu (ETH) 2:18:32
Susanna Sullivan (USA) 2:25:14
Sofia Yaremchuk (ITA) 2:25:36
Ellie Pashley (AUS) 2:26:21
Alice Wright (GBR) 2:29:08
Samantha Harrison (GBR) 2:32:22
Sifan Hassan (NED) debut
Dominique Scott (RSA) debut

Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:01:41
Kelvin Kiptum (KEN) 2:01:53
Birhanu Legese (ETH) 2:02:48
Amos Kipruto (KEN) 2:03:13
Tamirat Tola (ETH) 2:03:39
Kinde Atanaw (ETH) 2:03:51
Leul Gebresilase (ETH) 2:04:02
Seifu Tura (ETH) 2:04:29
Mo Farah (GBR) 2:05:11
Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) 2:05:23
Brett Robinson (AUS) 2:07:31
Dewi Griffiths (GBR) 2:09:49
Chris Thompson (GBR) 2:10:52
Tom Gröschel (GER) 2:11:03
Ben Connor (GBR) 2:11:20
Frank Lara (USA) 2:11:32
Luke Caldwell (GBR) 2:11:33
Weynay Ghebresilasie (GBR) 2:11:57
Emile Cairess (GBR) debut