Dave Bedford predicts great racing at 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon
The eventâ€™s elite race co-ordinator Dave Bedford has revealed that Eliud Kipchogeâ€™s stunning winning time of 2:03:05 at last yearâ€™s race has convinced the worldâ€™s best marathon runners that London is a course where records can be broken.
Kipchoge missed the World Record by eight seconds last year and Bedford believes this year Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele will have his sights set on re-writing the record books.
The women too are looking at making the most of Londonâ€™s fast course. Kenyan Mary Keitany has asked for pacemakers to put her on course to break the womenâ€™s only world record of 2:17:42.
â€œPeople are now convinced, without a doubt, that the Virgin Money London Marathon is able to produce world records,â€ said Bedford.
â€œIn order for that to be achieved, we need a lot of luck with the weather but we have competitive races and if we get good conditions then anything can happen.â€
Bekele was third at last yearâ€™s Virgin Money London Marathon â€“ his first race back after an Achilles tendon injury - in 2:06:36. He then went on to run the second fastest marathon of all time when he won the Berlin Marathon in 2:03:03 in Berlin in September.
â€œBekele will probably be as interested in winning the race as achieving a world record,â€ said Bedford. â€œBut the fact we have got a solid field and he wonâ€™t have it his own way means that, if the weather is good, anything is possible.
â€œHe will be pushed by his compatriot and the 2016 Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa who is in great form having won the New York City Half in 60:04 last month. He is clearly someone who can handle the competition as he showed in the Olympics in Rio.
â€œThe most likely Kenyan to feature is Abel Kirui. Only time will tell whether Kirui, who is a two-time world champion and won last yearâ€™s Chicago Marathon in 2:11:23, is back to his previous best but I expect him to be among the leading group.â€
As for the current world champion and reigning New York Marathon champion, Eritreaâ€™s Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, Bedford says he still needs to show he can be at the sharp end of a fast marathon race.
â€œGhebreslassie was fourth in the Olympics last year and my sense is that he is still yet to show if he can mix it in a competitive, fast race,â€ Bedford said. â€œHis personal best (PB) is two minutes slower than some of the other runners in the field and only time will tell if he can bridge that gap.â€
As for an outsider, Bedford says marathon debutant Bedan Karoki â€“ who ran a 59:10 half marathon in Ras Al Khaimah in February â€“ will be one to watch.
In the womenâ€™s race, Keitany will be the hot favourite and will be looking to beat Paula Radcliffeâ€™s women-only record set in London in 2005.
Keitany has a glittering CV that includes two London Marathon wins (2011 and 2012) and three New York Marathon victories (2014-2016). She fell during last yearâ€™s London Marathon and trailed home in ninth place but showed in New York she is back to her best.
â€œMany people had Mary as the favourite to win last yearâ€™s London Marathon before that fall,â€ said Bedford. â€œBut she is clearly back to her best following her win in New York in November. She is clearly a very classy marathon runner but she will have to run significantly well to win in London.â€
Keitany has requested that the pace be set close to the womenâ€™s only world record which Bedford said was â€œmusic to my earsâ€ but she wonâ€™t have it all her own way.
Bedford said: â€œFlorence Kiplagat who won the Chicago Marathon last year and was third here last year and Mare Dibaba will be threats to Keitany while we also have the multiple Olympic champion on the track Tirunesh Dibaba back in London.
â€œDibaba made her debut at the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2014 when she ran 2:20:35 which was the second fastest marathon debut of all time and she is running her first marathon since then.
â€œAnother Ethiopian who will be one to watch is the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon champion Tigist Tufa, who was second last year and is clearly a great competitor.â€
A fascinating subplot in this yearâ€™s Virgin Money London Marathon is the domestic fight to win places in the Great Britain team for the marathon at this summerâ€™s World Championships in London.
On the menâ€™s side, Callum Hawkins has already been pre-selected meaning there are two spots up for grabs.
â€œScott Overall, Chris Thompson and Tsegai Tewelde, who ran so well here last year to qualify for the Rio Olympics, will all be fighting for those two places,â€ said Bedford.
The womenâ€™s race is particularly intriguing with Jo Pavey hoping to run herself into the Great Britain team at the age of 43.
Bedford said: â€œJo Pavey will be hoping to run as well this year as she did in her debut in 2011 when she ran 2:28:24. On her day, and Jo has had many great days in her career, she is clearly the class act but she will have stiff opposition though from Alyson Dixon â€“ who represented Great Britain at last yearâ€™s Olympics and Charlotte Purdue â€“ who is clearly the future of British womenâ€™s marathon running.â€