Two of the greatest marathon fields in history will contest the elite men’s and women’s races at the Virgin Money London Marathon on 22 April 2018 when last year’s champions Daniel Wanjiru and Mary Keitany return to defend their titles.

Wanjiru was a surprise winner of the 2017 men’s race when he held off the challenge of Ethiopian track legend Kenenisa Bekele to clinch his first Abbott World Marathon Major victory and succeed Olympic gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge as London Marathon champion.

Bekele and Kipchoge will both be on the start line in 2018, the two fastest men in a field that contains four who have run the 26.2-mile distance under 2 hours 4 minutes and eight who have finished quicker than 2:06.

Among them are five Abbott World Marathon Majors winners and two former world champions, plus two-time winner Kipchoge and the second fastest Briton of all time, multiple world and Olympic track champion Mo Farah.

With his best of 2:03:03, Bekele is the second quickest man in history and the fastest in the London field. After finishing third on his London debut in 2015, the 35-year-old placed second last year when he came agonisingly close to catching Wanjiru in the closing stages.

He is joined by compatriot Guye Adola who ran the fastest debut in history when second behind Kipchoge in Berlin last September. Having led the race until the final few miles, the 27-year-old became the seventh quickest marathoner of all time when he crossed the line in 2:03:46, just 14 seconds after the winner.

The Kenyan challenge is boosted by Stanley Biwott, a former New York Marathon champion who was runner-up behind Kipchoge in London two years ago, and the experienced Abel Kirui, a two-time world champion who won the Chicago Marathon in 2016 and was second there last October.

Former world and New York champion, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, is one of three talented Eritreans in the line-up, while Farah heads a select British cast that includes Rio Olympian Tsegai Tewelde and the improving Jonny Mellor.

After her brilliant women-only world record of 2:17:01 last year, Keitany will start as favourite to win the women’s race for a fourth time, a feat only the great Norwegian Ingrid Kristiansen has ever achieved. Keitany will be running with male pacemakers in her bid to smash Paula Radcliffe’s iconic world record of 2:15:25.

Keitany will again go head-to-head with Tirunesh Dibaba, the irrepressible Ethiopian who chased her to the line 12 months ago to become the third fastest woman of all time with 2:17:56. Dibaba went on to win the Chicago Marathon last autumn in another brilliant time.

With those two at the top of the line-up, this will be the first marathon in history to include two women who have run quicker than 2:18 while four of the line-up have broken the 2:20 barrier and seven have finished inside 2:22. In all there are two world champions and six winners of Abbott World Marathon Majors races in this year’s field.

Keitany will be joined by fellow Kenyans Gladys Cherono, who has won the Berlin Marathon for the last two years; Vivian Cheruiyot, who was fourth last year and won the Frankfurt Marathon in October; and Brigid Kosgei, who placed second behind Dibaba in Chicago.

Tirunesh’s namesake, Mare Dibaba, also competes in London again. The 2015 world champion and Olympic bronze medallist was eighth on her London debut in 2017. Another Ethiopian, Tigist Tufa, returns to London for a fourth time, the 2015 and 2016 champion going for a rare third victory.

The current world champion, Rose Chelimo of Bahrain, will be hoping for another win in London as she returns to the city where she clinched gold last August.

Charlotte Purdue leads the domestic women’s challenge after breaking 2:30 for the first time in last year’s race and running for Britain at the IAAF World Championships.

Elite Fields