Mo Farah in action in the first half of the 2013 London Marathon (© Getty Images)
Britain’s double world and Olympic champion Mo Farah will face some of the greatest marathon runners of all time when he makes his full marathon debut at this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, after the organisers of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race revealed their men’s elite field on Tuesday (14).
Farah will race over the classic distance for the first time on Sunday 13 April.
He will join an elite men’s field that includes Kenya’s marathon world record-holder Wilson Kipsang, Uganda’s world and Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, Ethiopia’s reigning London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede, and Kenya’s London Marathon course record-holder Emmanuel Mutai.
Farah ran the first half of the 2013 London Marathon to assess the course and opposition in preparation for his full marathon debut this April.
He went on to win the World Championships 10,000m title in Moscow before retaining his world 5000m crown.
The 30-year-old then ran his fastest half marathon of 1:00:10 when he finished second in the Great North Run, in Great Britain, last September.
“I gained a lot of valuable experience running part of the course alongside the top guys last year and can’t wait to race over the full distance this April,” said Farah.
He will have an eye on the long-standing UK record of 2:07:13, which has belonged to Steve Jones since the Welshman won the 1985 Chicago Marathon, a time which was then only one second shy of the world best.
“The London Marathon always attracts the world’s best runners to its elite fields and this year will be no different. I am expecting it to be one of my toughest races and a real learning experience,” added Farah.
“I had another great year on the track in 2013, but the marathon is my main focus for this year.
"As a young boy growing up in London, it has always been my ambition to run the London Marathon and to be able to make my marathon debut in my home town is very special,” commented Farah.
It will be even more special if Farah can win in front of his home fans, but he will come up against a set of opponents that includes three men who have run quicker than 2:04 and six who have broken 2:05.
Quickest of the lot is 2012 London Marathon winner Kipsang, who broke the world record when he won the 2013 Berlin Marathon in 2:03:23.
Kipsang was fifth in last year’s race when Kebede triumphed for the second time, the Ethiopian coming from behind in a dramatic finish to regain the crown he first won in 2010.
Kebede ran his personal best of 2:04:38 to win the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
The second quickest man in the field is Emmanuel Mutai, who set the current course record of 2:04:40 when he won the London Marathon in 2011. The Kenyan looked odds on to win again last year until Kebede overtook him in the final mile.
Mutai was runner-up again in last October’s Chicago Marathon when he clocked 2:03:52 to become the fourth-fastest man of all time.
His namesake, Geoffrey Mutai, will also be among the favourites after running the fastest marathon ever in 2011. He won the Boston Marathon that year in 2:03:02, although it did not qualify as an official record because of the downhill profile of the Boston course.
One of the most consistent men on the marathon circuit, Mutai also won the 2012 Berlin Marathon in 2:04:15, his best time on a legitimate course.
The Kenyan challenge is completed by Stanley Biwott, the 2012 Paris Marathon champion who was eighth in London last April, and Martin Mathathi, winner of the 2013 Fukuoka Marathon.
Kiprotich will return to London just eight months after adding the world marathon title to the Olympic crown he claimed in spectacular fashion. The Ugandan will be hoping to make the podium this time after finishing sixth here last April.
Kebede will be joined by two other super-quick Ethiopians who also return to London with realistic hopes of victory.
Ayele Abshero produced a sensational debut when he won the 2012 Dubai Marathon in 2:04:23 and he reached the London podium last year when he was third, one place ahead of his compatriot, Feyisa Lilesa.
Farah will be keeping a wary eye on another Ethiopian, Ibrahim Jeilan, who will also make his marathon debut in London.
The pair have fought out a fierce track rivalry in recent years. Jeilan beat Farah to the 2011 world 10,000m title but the Briton got his revenge in Moscow last summer.
London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher said: “We are delighted to announce another superb elite men’s field for the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon, a line-up containing the usual array of record breakers, global champions and worldwide marathon winners.
“Of course, much attention in Britain will focus on the performance of Mo Farah and we are very pleased that he has chosen London to make his marathon debut. But it will be an extremely tough challenge for Mo with the quality of the elite field as high as ever,” added Brasher.
Organisers for the IAAF
Elite men's field with PBs
Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 2:03:23, world record-holder
Emmanuel Mutai (KEN) 2:03:52, 2012 London Marathon champion and course record-holder
Geoffrey Mutai (KEN) 2:04:15, 2013 New York City Marathon champion
Ayele Abshero (ETH) 2:04:23, 2012 Dubai Marathon champion
Feyisa Lilesa (ETH) 2:04:32, 2011 world bronze medallist
Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 2:04:38, 2013 London Marathon champion
Stanley Biwott (KEN) 2:05:12, 2012 Paris Marathon champion
Marilson dos Santos (BRA) 2:06:34, two-time New York City Marathon champion
Martin Mathathi (KEN) 2:07:16, 2013 Fukuoka Marathon champion
Stephen Kiprotich (UGA) 2:07:20, world and Olympic marathon champion
Samuel Tsegay (ERI) 2:07:28
Mustapha El Aziz (MAR) 2:07:55
Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 2:08:17
Scott Overall (GBR) 2:10:55
Ryan Vail (USA) 2:11:45
Mo Farah (GBR) debut, world and Olympic 5000m & 10,000m champion
Ibrahim Jeilan (ETH) debut, 2011 world 10,000m champion
Chris Thompson (GBR) debut
Ben Livesey (GBR) debut