Previews19 Apr 2024

Assefa, Kosgei and Chepngetich lead top-class clash in London


Brigid Kosgei, Ruth Chepngetich, Tigist Assefa, Peres Jepchirchir and Yalemzerf Yehualaw

With three of the top four fastest women in history taking on several other road racing stars, the TCS London Marathon – a World Athletics Platinum Label road race – could see something very special on Sunday (21).

Tigist Assefa leads the women-only world record assault as she forms part of a stacked field featuring the likes of Brigid Kosgei, Ruth Chepngetich, Peres Jepchirchir, Joyciline Jepkosgei and Yalemzerf Yehualaw.

Assefa smashed the world record with 2:11:53 in Berlin last year, taking more than two minutes off Kosgei’s previous record set in Chicago in 2019.

Now they clash for the first time, as they take to the roads of London as part of a star-studded line-up of athletes aiming to improve the women-only world record of 2:17:01 set by Mary Keitany in the British capital back in 2017.

As well as her world record time, Ethiopia’s Assefa ran 2:15:37 to win in Berlin in 2022, while Kenya’s Kosgei is the Olympic silver medallist who has five major marathon wins to her name. Her 2:14:04 achieved in Chicago remains the third-fastest women’s performance in history, behind Assefa’s world record and the 2:13:44 clocked by Sifan Hassan last year.

While Hassan is not defending her London Marathon title, the field does include Kenya’s 2019 world champion Chepngetich, who sits fourth on the world all-time list with 2:14:18 from Chicago in 2022.

“I’ve trained very well, just as I did for Berlin. We’ll see how well on Sunday but I’m sure I can beat the record, as I’m sure many of my competitors can too,” Assefa said at the pre-event press conference.

“I am very happy to be in London for the first time and very excited. I feel ready for the race.” 

Others who could also challenge the record include Olympic champion Jepchirchir, 2022 London Marathon champion Yehualaw and 2021 London Marathon winner Jepkosgei, who are among the nine women in the field with PBs faster than 2:17:30.

That list also includes Dubai Marathon winner Tigist Ketema, 2023 London Marathon runner-up Megertu Alemu and Sheila Chepkirui, who was second in last year’s Berlin Marathon.

“I had to miss the New York City Marathon last year because of injury,” said Jepchirchir. “I’m in good health now but the field here is so strong. I think the world record is definitely on. After that, may the best one win.”

Female pacemakers will be tasked with keeping the leading women on track for the women-only world record in London, where the elite women will run a separate race to the elite men and masses.

In the men’s race, the challenge will be led by Ethiopia’s 2022 world marathon champion Tamirat Tola and his compatriot Kenenisa Bekele, the multiple world and Olympic gold medallist on the track.

Both will be targeting a London Marathon title that has so far eluded them, with Tola finishing third in the British capital last year and Bekele’s best of his five attempts being the second place he secured in 2017.

“I’m very happy to be back here again. It’s been a long career for me. I’ve been running since 1999, almost 25 years, so it’s really not a short time in any sport,” said Bekele, a two-time Berlin Marathon champion and the third fastest marathon runner of all time thanks to the 2:01:41 he ran in Germany in 2019.

Only world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum and Eliud Kipchoge have ever run faster than Bekele. In February, Kiptum – the reigning London Marathon champion – died alongside his coach in a road traffic accident and on Sunday there will be a tribute to Kiptum before the elite men’s race.

“Of course, he is greatly missed,” said Bekele. “Even in his short time in the sport he set such an amazing history. And of course he has the course record here. We all remember him. He’s in all our hearts.” 

Bekele and Tola are two of the three fastest entries for this year’s race, with New York Marathon winner Tola’s best of 2:03:39 having been clocked in Amsterdam in 2021. Kenya’s Alexander Mutiso Munyao, plus Ethiopia’s Dawit Wolde and Kinde Atanaw, also have PBs under 2:04.

Munyao was second in the Valencia Marathon in a PB of 2:03:11 in December, while Wolde ran 2:03:48 to finish third in that race. Atanaw is the 2019 Valencia winner, who ran 2:03:51 to claim that win.

Others looking to make a statement will be world bronze medallist Leul Gebresilase, who finished second in London in 2022, plus 2021 Chicago Marathon winner Seifu Tura and Daniel Mateiko, who won the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 58:45 in February.

Emile Cairess and Callum Hawkins lead the list of British entrants. Their compatriot Marc Scott, the 2022 world indoor 3000m bronze medallist, makes his marathon debut.

Leading entries

Tigist Assefa (ETH) 2:11:53
Brigid Kosgei (KEN) 2:14:04
Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) 2:14:18
Tigist Ketema (ETH) 2:16:07
Megertu Alemu (ETH) 2:17:09
Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 2:17:16
Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) 2:17:23
Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) 2:17:23
Sheila Chepkirui (KEN) 2:17:29
Tsige Haileslase (ETH) 2:22:10
Susanna Sullivan (USA) 2:24:27
Manon Trapp (FRA) 2:25:48
Becky Briggs (GBR) 2:29:04
Alice Wright (GBR) 2:29:08

Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:01:41
Alexander Mutiso Munyao (KEN) 2:03:11
Tamirat Tola (ETH) 2:03:39
Dawit Wolde (ETH) 2:03:48
Kinde Atanaw (ETH) 2:03:51
Leul Gebresilase (ETH) 2:04:02
Seifu Tura (ETH) 2:04:29
Daniel Do Nascimento (BRA) 2:04:51
Addisu Gobena (ETH) 2:05:01
Milkesa Mengesha (ETH) 2:05:29
Henok Tesfay (ERI) 2:07:12
Hendrick Pfeiffer (GER) 2:07:14
Emile Cairess (GBR) 2:08:07
Callum Hawkins (GBR) 2:08:14
Hassan Chahdi (FRA) 2:08:19
Mahamed Mahamed (GBR) 2:08:40
Brian Shrader (USA) 2:09:46
Stephen Scullion  (IRL) 2:09:49
Weynay Ghebresilasie (GBR) 2:09:50
Daniel Mateiko (KEN) no time
Marc Scott (GBR) debut

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