Florence and Edna Kiplagat in the 2014 London Marathon (© Getty Images)
Edna Kiplagat will face two former London Marathon champions and the fastest half-marathon runner in history when she defends her Virgin Money London Marathon women’s title on Sunday 26 April, organisers of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race announced on Wednesday (14).
The double world champion sprinted to victory on The Mall last year, beating her namesake and half marathon world record-holder Florence Kiplagat by just three seconds, in the closest women’s race for 17 years.
The two Kiplagats will meet again in April when they face the 2013 London Marathon champion, Priscah Jeptoo, and Mary Keitany, who topped the London Marathon podium in 2011 and 2012.
The women’s elite field for the 2015 London Marathon contains seven runners who have completed the classic distance quicker than 2:22 and no fewer than 10 who have run faster than 2:25.
“Winning my first London Marathon title on my fourth attempt last year was a special moment for me,” said Edna Kiplagat, now 35, who was third on her London debut in 2011 and twice a runner-up before her 2014 triumph.
“Now I have tasted success in London, I am determined to win again, but I know it will be tougher than ever in 2015. Florence will be hungry to win after getting so close last year, and both Priscah and Mary will be doing their best to regain the No.1 spot.
“We have all had some great races in London in the past and I am sure it will be even better this year.”
The return of Mary Keitany to the London Marathon will be keenly anticipated by marathon fans after she won her second title three years ago in 2:18:37, a time only world record-holder Paula Radcliffe has ever beaten on the London course.
Keitany made a spectacular return to marathon racing last year when she won the New York City Marathon in November after taking a year out in 2013 to have her second child.
Undefeated over the London course, she is the quickest in this year’s line-up by more than a minute and is aiming to become only the fourth woman to win the London Marathon three times.
“I am thrilled to be returning to the London Marathon this year,” said Keitany, who turns 33 this coming Sunday. “I have had great success in London before and will be training hard to win my third title.”
Redemption for Jeptoo
Jeptoo set her personal best of 2:20:14 when she was third in London three years ago but after failing to finish last year, the Olympic silver medallist will be keen to make amends this time.
The Kenyan contingent is further strengthened by New York City Marathon runner-up Jemima Sumgong, while Feyse Tadese and Tigist Tufa provide the Ethiopian threat.
Tadese was fourth last year in London and second at the Berlin Marathon last September, while Tufa won marathons in Ottawa and Shanghai in 2014.
The east Africans won’t have it all their own way though.
The 2015 field contains a number of strong European runners, led by three women who have all run faster than 2:25 in their careers: Russia’s Olympic bronze medallist Tatyana Arkhipova, Ukraine’s Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko, the 2014 Osaka champion who was seventh in London last year, and France’s European champion Christelle Daunay.
The strong field also contains a pair of Portuguese contenders in Ana Dulce Felix, who was eighth last year, and Sara Moreira, who was third on her marathon debut in New York last November.
British interest will be high as world record-holder and three-time London champion Paula Radcliffe will say farewell to marathon running.
“Once again we are delighted to be able to announce one of the strongest women’s marathon fields ever seen," said race director Hugh Brasher. "With our last three champions and the world half marathon record-holder, these athletes can truly be called the Fantastic Four.
“We are also absolutely thrilled that Paula has chosen London for her final marathon and we know the British crowds will be out in force on 26 April to celebrate her extraordinary career," he added. "This is a fitting celebration of marathon running in our 35th year."
Organisers for the IAAF
Elite women’s field (with PBs):
Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:18:37
Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:44
Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:50
Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 2:20:14
Feyse Tadese (ETH) 2:20:27
Jemima Sumgong (KEN) 2:20:41
Tigist Tufa (ETH) 2:21:52
Tatyana Arkhipova (RUS) 2:23:29
Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (UKR) 2:23:58
Christelle Daunay (FRA) 2:24:22
Ana Dulce Félix (POR) 2:25:40
Sara Moreira (POR) 2:26:00
Alessandra Aguilar (ESP) 2:27:00
Volha Mazuronak (BLR) 2:27:33
Rkia El Moukim (MAR) 2:28:12
Iwona Lewandowska (POL) 2:28:32
Diane Nukuri (BDI) 2:29:35
Sonia Samuels (GBR) 2:30:56
Emma Stepto (GBR) 2:32:40
Rebecca Robinson (GBR) 2:37:14