An element of intrigue surrounds Kenyan duo Bedan Karoki and Abel Kirui ahead of this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon.

Kirui is an experienced athlete who won the world marathon title in 2009 and 2011 during a ‘purple patch’ in his career.

He last ran London in 2012 where he finished fifth, going on to win Olympic silver just four months later.

After a quiet period disrupted by injuries, he returned in style to win the 2016 Chicago Marathon last October – an upturn in form he credits to his coach, Renato Canova – and he is now targeting selection for Kenya’s 2017 World Championship team.

“Training is good,” he said. “I ran 61:30 in Barcelona (in February 2017) and made progress. I have no injuries, good mood and no stress.

“I hadn’t been performing well, but we had a strategy. I obeyed Renato’s programme and now I’m back on the right track.”
Karoki, who makes his debut, could well be a surprise package.

The world half marathon silver medallist ran a fast 59:10 half marathon in Ra’s Al Kaymah, in the United Arab Emirates, in February – the quickest half marathon time in the world this year – and says his preparation since has gone well.

While his potential over the full marathon is unknown, he is confident of running a solid debut.

“I believe I can run a good time,” he said. “I’m not scared, my preparation has been good, it’s been consistent. I’m expecting to run between 2:04 and 2:07. I’ll see how I feel and what position I’m in, but maybe I can run 2:05.”

The 26-year-old attended high school in Japan and raced on the Japanese circuit as a youngster. He’s been compared to former Olympic champion and London Marathon winner Samuel Wanjiru who also studied in Japan, learning his trade on the Japanese cross country circuit before becoming a world-class marathon runner with a best of 2:05:10.

Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison at this stage of his career, but Karoki says he benefited from his time in Japan where he “learned how to train, how to keep time and be organised”.

These are key attributes for marathon success and will stand him in good stead for his debut this Sunday, and a possible return to London this summer alongside Kirui as part of Kenya’s marathon team.