Ethiopian distance runner Tamirat Tola (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview London, UK

Preview: men's marathon – IAAF World Championships London 2017

This year’s London Marathon winner Daniel Wanjiru will seek to extend Kenya’s record as the most successful nation in the history of the men’s marathon at the IAAF World Championships.

Kenya has produced four men’s world champions since Australia’s Rob De Castella won the inaugural title in 1983, although they remain only one title ahead of Spain in a sequence of 15 races that has seen winners spread pretty widely around the globe.

Although the London course will not be the same as the race which is held annually in the English capital, there will be sections of it that are familiar to the 25-year-old from Embu County, who finished nine seconds clear of Ethiopia’s eight-time world champion on the track, Kenenisa Bekele, in London, clocking 2:05:48.

There were hopes that Bekele, who recorded the second best marathon time for record purposes in winning last year’s Berlin Marathon in 2:03:03 – only bettered by the world record of 2:02:57 set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto on the same course four years earlier – would add to the single title won by Ethiopia through Gezahegne Abera in 2001. But those hopes were floored when Bekele withdrew himself from consideration because he “was not fit to compete at the event”.

Now the task of carrying the Ethiopian banner falls to Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Tamirat Tola, who has clocked 2:04:11 this season to win the Dubai Marathon, making him the fastest entrant for the World Championships. The versatile Tola, who finished fifth at last year's IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and sixth at the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, followed his Dubai triumph with victory at the Prague Half Marathon in a PB of 59:37.

Tola will be joined on the Ethiopian team by Tsegaye Mekonnen, a 22-year-old who has run 2:07:26 this year, and 32-year-old Yemane Tsegay, who has run 2:08:48 and has a pb of 2:04:48.

Tsegay took silver in Beijing two years ago as Ghirmay Ghebreslassie earned Eritrea its first world title. Ghebreslassie will not be defending his title – instead the team features Yohannes Ghebregergish, a 23-year-old who has run a personal best of 2:08:14 this year, 30-year-old Ghebrezgiabhier Kibrom, who has run 2:14:52 this season, and Amanuel Mesel, who has a 2:10:44 to his credit this year and a best of 2:08:17.

Wanjiru – no relation to Sammy Wanjiru who won the 2008 Olympic title for Kenya – set a personal best of 2:05:21 in winning last year’s Amsterdam Marathon. He will run with two Kenyans a year younger than him at 24: Gideon Kipkemoi Kipketer, who has run a personal best of 2:05:51 this year, and Geoffrey Kipkorir Kirui, who has a best of 2:06:27.

Uganda’s 28-year-old Stephen Kiprotich, who followed up his surprise 2012 Olympic win by taking the world title in Moscow in 2013, will seek an unprecedented third global marathon title, having run 2:07:31 this year.

Japan, fifth in the World Championship men’s marathon medals table with one gold (Hiromi Taniguchi, Tokyo 1991) and two bronzes, will rest their hopes on 24-year-old Hiroto Inoue, who has run a personal best of 2:08:22 this year, prolific racer Yuki Kawauchi (2:09:18 this season) and 34-year-old Kentaro Nakamoto, who has run 2:09:32 this season.

Turkey’s 31-year-old Kaan Kigen Ozbilen could challenge for a medal given his personal best of 2:06:10 this year.  

The men’s marathon will get underway at 10:55am on Sunday 6 August, with the women’s marathon runners setting off later the same day at 14:00.

The course starts and finishes at Tower Bridge and comprises four laps of a six-mile stretch that will see competitors heading west along Victoria Embankment towards the Houses of Parliament, then back alongside the River Thames to St Paul’s Cathedral before returning via the Tower of London.

Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF