Two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui will be looking to recapture the form that saw him triumph in Berlin in 2009 and Daegu two years later when he stands on the start line of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon on Sunday (18).
Now 33, the Kenyan police chief inspector will be having his first outing since over the classic distance since failing to finish at the Boston Marathon in April. His last completed marathon was in Amsterdam 12 months ago, when he finished sixth in 2:09:45.
Kirui has not run faster than 2:08 since the 2012 London Marathon, just a few months before he returned to London and took the silver medal at the Olympic Games that summer. But despite a stress fracture in March 2013 which meant he was unable to defend his world title in Moscow, he believes his best days are far from behind him.
“I’m so happy that my preparation is good,” said Kirui, whose fastest marathon is 2:05:04 from when he finished third in the 2009 Rotterdam Marathon. "More than ever, I think I can challenge my personal best. I am going in the right direction.
“I am thinking I can go for the course record (in Amsterdam), I am preparing to fight for the course record," he added. "I think that this time my body is OK and I am preparing without any stress or any problem."
The Amsterdam Marathon course record stands at 2:05:36 to his compatriot Wilson Chebet, from 2013, and the three-time winner Chebet – who was victorious in consecutive years between 2011 and 2013 – will be among Kirui’s rivals as he strives to regain his title.
Kirui also wants to do better than on his visit to Amsterdam last year.
“After coming through the challenges of injury (in 2013, when he didn’t run a marathon because of the stress fracture) the body was still building up but I suffered a stomach problem towards the end of last year’s race. It weakened my energy, but I still finished sixth and I saw the area that I need to concentrate on, from 37 to 42 kilometres.
“It (the injury in 2013) taught me that I have to listen to my body. At that time, I was a crazy runner!
“I lost the chance to represent Kenya in Beijing because I had no good results, so I hope a good result in Amsterdam will push me in my aim to represent Kenya at the Olympic Games.
“All being well, this is the road to Rio de Janeiro. I did not go to Moscow and not to Beijing, and it was very painful watching these races. But I’m still young enough to race in Rio and keep the flag of Kenya flying high, like they (his team-mates) did in Beijing, showing the world that they are world-beaters.”
Among the other four names announced on Tuesday by the organisers of this year’s Amsterdam Marathon was Ethiopia's 31-year-old Markos Geneti, who will be the second-fastest man in the field.
He set his personal best of 2:04:54 at the 2012 Dubai Marathon, where he placed third.
Geneti also finished second in last year’s Dubai Marathon in 2:05:13, the second-fastest time of his career. Amsterdam will be his third marathon of 2015, having finished sixth in Tokyo in 2:07:25 and third in Warsaw in 2:08:11 earlier this year.
Geneti’s 33-year-old compatriot Dadi Yami finished sixth in the 2012 Dubai Marathon in 2:05:41, which remains his personal best. His most recent marathon was in Seoul earlier this year, where he was fourth in 2:08:05.
The third of a trio of Ethiopians, Feyisa Bekele, is familiar with the Amsterdam Marathon having run what is also his personal best of 2:06:26 when finishing fourth in 2012.
However, having won in Seoul last year in 2:07:43, Bekele showed that he was not just a one-hit wonder.
Kenya’s Eliud Tarus will be making his marathon debut but is an accomplished runner over shorter distances and can boast of a half marathon best of 1:00:04.
In addition to Wilson Chebet, the race organisers have already announced that Kenya's 2014 Amsterdam winner Bernard Kipyego will defend his title.
Phil Minshull and organisers for the IAAF