Guide to the 2015 World Championships

Mo Farah in Beijing / Getty Images

The biennial IAAF World Championships are the most important global track and field competition outside of the Olympics. The championships commence in Beijing with the men’s marathon on Saturday morning (early Friday morning in Great Britain). Here is what to look for in the middle-distance and distance events, as well the race your non-running friends probably care most about, the men’s 100m.

Beijing is 7 hours ahead of Great Britain. Times listed refer to finals.

Men’s 800 metres
(August 25, 8:55 pm Beijing, 1:55pm GB)

The two-lapper is frontloaded with defending Olympic champ David Rudisha of Kenya, defending world champ Mo Aman of Ethiopia, and last year’s top runner, Botswana’s Nijel Amos. Amos has beaten Rudisha in six of their last seven races, and may have the edge right now. Michael Rimmer and Kyle Langford are representing Great Britain, with Langford’s PB from last month’s Anniversary Games sure to be boosting confidence.

Women’s 800 metres
(August 29, 7:15 pm Beijing, 12:15pm GB)

Kenya’s defending gold medallist Eunice Sum is an overwhelming favourite to repeat, though Cuban newcomer Rose Mary Almanza bears watching. Team GB are bringing Olympian semi-finalist Lynsey Sharp, Shelayna Oskan-Clarke and Jenny Meadows to the table. A subplot involves Russian Anastasiya Bazdyreva, who is on the entry list despite being implicated as a drug user in a German TV documentary. Other entrants have made it clear they don’t want her on the start line.

Men’s 1500 metres
(August 30, 7:45 pm Beijing, 12:45pm GB)

Most money will be on Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop to win, the two-time defending world champion seems prepared for a third gold in Beijing. Team BG have current British 1500m champ Charlie Grice taking part and Chris O’Hare who has run a career PB this year of 3:34.83 in the distance. 

Women’s 1500 metres
(August 25, 8:35 pm Beijing, 1:35pm GB)

Anyone who breaks a purportedly invincible 22-year-old world record and beats a world-class field by six seconds, as Genzebe Dibaba did in Monaco last month, is expected to bring home a gold from Beijing. But GB's Laura Muir (coached by Andy Young) and Laura Weightman (coached by Stece Cram) will be lining up to hopefully steal the Dibaba's thunder. 

Men’s 5,000 metres
(August 29, 7:30 pm Beijing, 1pm GB)

Ethiopians Dejen Gebremeskel and Hagos Gebrhiwet have the flashy times that suggest they can defeat two-time world champ Mo Farah in a hard-from-the-gun 5,000, but somehow that never happens. It’s difficult to argue that Beijing will be any different than Farah’s previous triumphs. There’s an experienced Kenyan corps to contend with, too, in the quest for medals. Ben True has a 2015 Diamond League win to his credit and believes that if the pace is brisk but not scorching, he can run a strong enough last lap to grab a medal for the United States.

Women’s 5,000 metres
(August 30, 7:15 pm Beijing, 12:15pm GB)

Team GB will be repesented by 2015 British Champ Steph Twell, but the story of this event in 2015 has been the efforts of Genzebe Dibaba and Almaz Ayana to break Dibaba’s sister Tirunesh’s world record of 14:11.15. They’ve come up just short and it's likely they'll duel for gold in Beijing, and Ayana, after Dibaba’s 1500s, will be fresher. 

Men’s 10,000 metres
(August 22, 8:50 pm Beijing, 1:50pm GB)

It's the Mo-Show again with the defending champion clocking the best 10,000m time this year with a 26:50.97. He ran that in May to defeat Kenyans Paul Tanui and Geoffrey Kamworor, who he’ll face again in Beijing. But Kamworor, the world champion in cross country and the half marathon, has since run a 27:11 at altitude in Nairobi. The Kenyans have talked about using team tactics to deny Farah the chance to run his trademark scorching last lap.

Women’s 10,000 metres
(August 24, 8:35 pm Beijing, 1:35pm GB)

This is the toughest of the distance races to forecast. The fastest time of 2015 belongs to an Ethiopian, Gelete Burka, who remains better known as a 1500-metre runner. Track fans will find out how far 2011 world champion Vivian Cheruiyot has come back since giving birth in October 2013 and whether 2012 Olympic silver medallist Sally Kipyego is up to the form that gave her the best 10,000 time of 2014. Shalane Flanagan’s 31:09.02 is the fastest non-Ethiopian 10,000 of the year, while GB's Kate Avery 31:41.44 in May this year. 

Men’s marathon
(August 22, 7:35 am Beijing, 12:35am GB)

This event looks more like a World Marathon Majors race than it ever has at these championships. Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa won his second Boston Marathon in April, Kenyan Wilson Kipsang is the reigning New York City champion, and his training partner Dennis Kimetto is the man who broke his world record. Those could be the three medallists, with an edge going to Kipsang for his finishing speed. Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich surprised by winning the 2012 Olympics and 2013 world championships, but the third time is unlikely to be the charm for him. 

Women’s marathon

(August 30, 7:30am Beijing, 12:30am GB)

This could be a textbook Ethiopia vs. Kenya battle. Ethiopia has the 2015 London champion Tigist Tufa and 2014 marathon winners Mare Dibaba (Chicago, after Rita Jeptoo’s drug DQ) and Tirfi Tsegaye (Berlin). Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat is seeking her third world title; her teammate Jemima Sumgong was a close second in New York City in November. Japan is experiencing a resurgence in women’s marathoning, and Sairi Maeda might crack the East African hegemony. 

Plus: Men’s 100 metres
(August 23, 9:15pm Beijing, 2:15pm GB)

This race matches track’s biggest household name, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, against American Justin Gatlin, who has served two drug suspensions and ran his personal best of 9.74 this year at age 33.

Until his 9.87 in London on July 24, defending world champion and world record holder Bolt looked like he might not even make the final in Beijing. His imperfect London race hinted he’d be fit to run faster in a few weeks.

Team GB fields some strong sprinters for the event with 2014 European Championships 100m gold medallist James Dasaolu along with Richard Kilty (who set a 100m PB at this year’s Birmingham Diamond League Grand Prix) and recent junior athletics graduate Chijindu Ujah.  

There are other notable presences in the 100m, including 2007 world champion Tyson Gay (running well after coming off a drug suspension) and Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, a former world record holder who’s also served a drug suspension and has clocked 9.81 this year.

But they’re bit players. This is Bolt vs. Gatlin, and Gatlin seems ready to end Bolt’s reign.