In defence of her London Marathon title on April 13, Priscah Jeptoo (above) will have to thwart the reigning Olympic gold medalist, the winner of the last two world championships marathons, the 2013 champions of Berlin, Tokyo, Paris, and Osaka, and, in her marathon debut, the greatest 10,000-meter track runner of all-time.
The London field has three women who’ve broken 2:20 and eight who’ve run under 2:25. Kenya’s Jeptoo, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, won London in 2:20:14 last April, and followed up with a New York City Marathon victory in November in 2:25:07. She earned $500,000 as the women’s points leader on the World Marathon Majors circuit.
Despite the presence of so many experienced and accomplished marathoners, much of the interest in London – as it does in the men’s race, with Mo Farah – will focus on a track legend making a marathon debut. Tirunesh Dibaba was the 2008 Olympic gold medalist at 5000 and 10,000 meters, and won 10,000-meter gold again in 2012; she’s also won three world titles in the 10,000 and two in the 5000.
The Ethiopian had been scheduled to debut last year in London but withdrew with a shin injury a month before the race. After the world championships in Moscow last year, she set an Ethiopian road record for 10K at Tilburg in the Netherlands and then finished third behind Jeptoo and Meseret Defar at England’s Great North Run, a half marathon.
Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia, who won the Olympic marathon in London in 2012 in a Games record of 2:23:07, has the fastest personal best in the field, a 2:18:58 that won the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon. At last April’s London Marathon, she had a collision with a wheelchair racer at a drinks station. Knocked to the ground, she got up and finished 16th.
Experience is certainly on the side of Kenyan Edna Kiplagat, the 2011 and 2013 world champion who was the London runner-up in 2012 and 2013. Her personal best of 2:19:50 comes from that 2012 London race. Her resume also includes a win at the 2010 New York City Marathon.
Florence Kiplagat (no relation to Edna) has a slightly better time credential, a 2:19:44 she ran to win in Berlin in 2011. She was victorious again in Berlin last September in 2:21:13. Kiplagat has also been a world champion in cross country and at the half marathon.
Ethiopia will also be represented by Aberu Kebede, the 2010 and 2012 Berlin champion, with a personal best of 2:20:30 in the latter year, who also added a Tokyo title in 2013, and Feysa Tadesse, the 2013 Paris champion in 2:21:06.
Ukrainian record holder Tetyana Hamera-Shmyrko, the 2013 Osaka Marathon champion who was fifth in the London Olympics, is the top European entrant.
Kim Smith is also entered in London, where her seventh place 2:25:21 in 2010 set a New Zealand national record. Smith, based in Providence, Rhode Island, has been fifth in the New York City Marathon twice and also holds her nation’s half marathon record of 1:07:11.