We’ve covered previously ‘How Mo Mastered the Marathon‘; discussing what a fantastic job Mo Farah, under the guidance of his coach Gary Lough, has done in mastering the marathon distance. After finishing an extremely creditable third in a stacked field at last year’s London Marathon, he took his first major marathon title in Chicago, and with it the European record. In this blog I’ll preview how he’s likely to fare in London against arguably the greatest male marathon runner of all time. I’ll also run you through a strong elite women’s field, and try to pick the winner of the British women’s championships, where the two leading contenders are separated by a single second!
Elite Men’s Race
In last year’s Berlin Marathon Eliud Kipchoge tore the world record apart with a ridiculous 2:01:39, including a second half of 60:34. He’s won his last nine marathons, including London three times. It’s difficult to see anyone getting within a minute of him. If you’re on the streets of London enjoy the fact that you can see the world’s greatest ever (male) marathon runner and last year’s global Athlete of the Year – for free.
Wilson Kipsang holds the accolade of being the only man ever to beat Kipchoge in a marathon; this was back in 2013 – and it took a world record to do it! Kipsang has never been out of the top five in his five runs over 26.2 in London, although at the age of 37 he’s probably past his best. No other entrant has broken 2:04, so I’m tipping Mo Farah to finish second.
If you’re looking for outside/each way bets then Bashir Abdi and Jack Rayner could be your men. Abdi trains with Farah and, like Mo, he was also born in Somalia. Now running for Belgium, he gave his more illustrious training partner a scare by finishing a very close second in the Big Half in London last month. Rayner, an Australian who sports a very retro moustache, upset a high quality field to win last autumn’s Cardiff Half clocking 61:01. Australia has a rich history of marathon runners and Rayner will look to continue that in his debut over the distance.
Behind Farah there will be an exciting race to be the second British man: Athletics fans are delighted to see the return of Callum Hawkins, who will attempt 26.2 miles for the first time since his collapse 2km from the end of the Commonwealth Games marathon. Another man making a return is Welshman Dewi Griffiths, who debuted over the distance with a rapid 2:09 in Frankfurt in 2017. Other than Mo Farah, no British man has gone faster than that since 2005. Now there’s a stat to impress your friends with!
Another interesting debutant is track and cross country stalwart Andy Vernon – although with 2:12 runners Tsegai Tewelde and Jonny Mellor, 2017 British champ Josh Griffiths and 2018 Commonwealth bronze medallist Robbie Simpson also in the field, he may struggle to finish in the top five Brits!
Elite Women’s Race
For the last sixteen years, experts have wondered when Paula Radcliffe’s world record might be broken. In recent times that question has been asked louder and louder. Two years ago Catherien Ndereba sat third on the all time list. She is now tenth. This shows the depth of women now able to run very quick times. Four of the women ranked above Ndereba’s superb 2:18:47 will race in London.
The best of these is Mary Keitany who set a PB of 2:17:01 on the course in 2017. She isn’t afraid to risk everything for a world record and she knows that, at the age of 37, she may not have many more chances. Last year Keitany set off with the intent of smashing Paula’s time before blowing up spectacularly in the second half. Vivian Cheruiyot took advantage to take the win in an excellent 2:18:31. This year the two will run against each other again. They’ll be joined by Gladys Cherono and Brigid Kosgei – both also very capable of winning.
The two British ladies I referred to in the introduction are Charlotte Purdue (PB 2:29:23) and Lily Partridge (PB 2:29:24). Purdue broke 70 minutes for the half for the first time in February this year. I think this will set her up well to take the British title – although Partridge won’t make it easy. I can see these two club mates running side by side for much of the race. With favourable conditions they could both set PBs.
The last London Marathon that did not contain David Weir was in the last century, so it’s no surprise to see him on the startline again. Weir is looking for his third win in a row and his ninth in total. Marcel Hug looked to have the measure of Weir a few years back but has had to settle for second place in the last two years. Last year’s third placer, Daniel Romanchuk, went on to win in Chicago and New York, beating Hug and Weir in both races. This could make next Sunday’s race very interesting.
Tatyana McFadden is an absolute legend of ladies wheelchair racing and has won London four times. However, of late she has been the bridesmaid to Manuela Schar’s bride with the latter edging their duels in the most recent Chicago, New York and Tokyo races. Last year Madison de Rozario was a surprise winner of the race in London. She produces an electric (not literally!) turn of speed so Schah will be wise not to let this year’s race go down to the last mile.
Stop press… We’ve deliberately held off publishing this blog to include the results of the Boston Wheelchair Marathons, which happened on Monday. (Yes, wheelchair athletes are that fit, they will be ready to go again over 26.2 miles just six days later!) Daniel Romanchuk won the men’s race, continuing his streak of major wins over Hug, who placed third. David Weir did not race Boston. He turns 40 later this year and is almost twice Romanchuk’s age, so we can forgive him for having an easy week! In the women’s race Manuela Schar beat McFadden and de Rozario by a massive 7 (seven) minutes.