Kenenisa Bekele is unquestionably amongst the best distance runners of all time. His marathon PB is 2:03:03. Eliud Kipchoge is probably the best marathon runner of all time. His official PB is 2:03:05. He ran this in London in 2016 without realising how close he was to the official world record of 2:02:57, which was set on the slightly quicker Berlin course. I use the term ‘official world record’ as Kipchoge was the runner who completed the Nike ‘Breaking 2’ marathon in 2:00:25 – an agonising one second per mile away from fulfilling the project’s goal. These two guys are very, very quick. If they’re not on their toes they’ll have Guye Adola, who’s also run 2:03 and seventh on the all-time list, chasing them down.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Mo Farah yet. He would be crazy to go with the likes of the three aforementioned guys and he knows this. Back in 2014 Mo had a dabble at the 26.2 and ran an English record of 2:08:21 when he finished 8th in London. He’s now committed himself fully to the marathon distance and I expect him to run about 2:06 and take the British record of 2:07:13, currently held by Welshman Steve Jones. There are a few 2:05 runners in the race so he can go with them and go for a top five or six finish. He’ll be happy with that progress. If he has a superb day he can challenge the European record of 2:05:48.
The other British man to watch out for is Johnny Mellor. Despite running the Commonwealth qualifying time he was not selected for the games. He will be fully motivated to prove the selectors wrong and lower his 2:12 PB.
The two leading lights of the women’s field are similar to those of the men’s field: There haven’t been many, if any, better female distance runners than Tirunesh Dibaba. She has three Olympic golds, five World golds and four World Cross Country titles to her name. Like Bekele she’s been able to translate her track speed onto the roads and has a PB of 2:17:56. I am really looking forward to her battle with Mary Keitany, who holds the world record for a women’s only race of 2:17:01 (Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 had male pacemakers). The thing in Keitany’s favour is that she’s a bit nuts, or incredibly brave depending on how you want to look at it; she will probably aim to go through halfway in about 1:07 with a 2:14-2:15 finish in mind. If she has her day she might get very close to taking Paula’s ‘unbeatable’ record off her. Keitany and Dibaba are second and third on the all-time list, behind Radcliffe – it’s going to be a brilliant race.
Unlike in the men’s race a lot of the top British female talent will be running the Commonwealth Games Marathon. However, there will be an interesting matchup between Tracy Barlow, who ran 2:30:42 in London last year, and Lily Partridge whose half marathon PB of 70:31 suggests she could join Barlow in pushing for an impressive sub 2:30 clocking.
Nb The top two British finishers in the men’s and women’s races will qualify for the European Championships, provided they have a qualifying time of under 2:16 (men) and 2:36 (women).
David Weir made something of a comeback last year winning the race for the seventh time and the first time since 2012. Marcel Hug will provide a huge obstacle to Weir claiming an unprecedented eight success. Kurt Fearnley has also raced consistently well over the last couple of years.
In the Women’s race look no further than Manuela Schar who destroyed the course record in London last year and went on to win major marathons in Berlin and Tokyo to add to the Boston title she also took last spring. She’ll go out hard again as she won’t want to risk being beaten in a sprint finish by Tatyana McFadden the multiple Paralympic Champion over shorter distances.
Who Will Be This Year’s Josh Griffiths?
This could potentially be Matt Clowes – although I have to admit this is a slightly biased opinion as he’s my clubmate and occasional sports masseur. He’s run a 64:38 half marathon this year which is quicker than Josh Griffiths had run in the lead up when he finished top Brit last year. He’s quick and confident enough to beat all the Brits, bar Farah, so could claim a surprise spot in the European Championships team for Berlin in August.