Also: 2007 London Marathon: Previous Head-To-Heads | 2007 London Marathon: The Race
London Marathon - The Preview
by Sharon Ekstrom
On Sunday, April 22, 2007 the London Marathon will kick off its 27th year with some of the world's top athletes going head-to-head on one of the fastest marathon courses in the world. The anticipation of race day is immense, as runners will be competing for a win and, possibly, a new world record.
The men's field is especially inspiring and includes four of the seven fastest marathoners of all-time: World Record Holder Paul Tergat, London Course Record Holder Khalid Khannouchi, two time Olympian and 10K World Champion Haile Gebreselassie and defending champion Felix Limo. Add to that the Gold and Silver medalists at the last Olympics, Stefano Baldini and Meb Keflezighi. The women's field will also be world-class and will feature the return of the women who placed second through eighth at the 2006 London Marathon. Notably absent will be defending champion Deena Kastor who chose to run the Boston Marathon instead of London for 2007 and two-time London Marathon winner and world record holder, Paula Radcliffe, who gave birth earlier this year and, though back in training, is not ready for competition.
An additional story that is part of the London Marathon is its inclusion in the World Marathon Majors Series. Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot's victory at the 2007 Boston Marathon (and 2006 Boston Marathon and 2006 Chicago Marathon) virtually ensures that he is the winner of the Men's $500,000 bonus. The women's contest, however remains open. A win at London would put Berhane Adere in a tie with Jelena Prokopcuka for the top spot on the women's leader board, while a top finish by Ludmilla Grigoryeva aor Gete Wami would put them in a strong second spot and in contention for the prize going into the Fall Marathon season.
The Men's Race - Rivalries Among Greats
The men's field for the 2007 London Marathon features thirteen athletes who have sub-2:10 personal best marathon times.
Defending champion Felix Limo returns to competition following an off season in which he was treated for back pain. Cautious through his training leading up to marathon day, Limo must still be one of the top favorites for a win. To date, Limo has won all but one of the marathons he has ever participated in. (In his debut at the marathon distance at Amsterdam in 2003, he was "only" runner-up with an impressive 2:06:42.) But on the heels of the defending champion will be Martin Lel, runner-up from the 2006 London Marathon and 2005 London Marathon winner. This serious contender lost to Limo by two seconds in one of the closest margins of victory ever, as they sprinted the last 200 meters of the race. Hendrick Ramaala came in fourteen seconds later to nab third place at the 2006 London Marathon and is always a tough competitor.
To continue down the roster is Paul Tergat whose World Record personal best of 2:04:55 from the 2003 Berlin Marathon has remained untouched. As the oldest elite at the top of this field at 37 years old, his incredible history of track performances in the 90's made him a strong rival to Haile Gebreselassie on the track at the Olympics, the World Championships and in distances to 10000m and beyond.
Haile Gebreselassie is undeniably one of the greatest runners in the world and had an incredible racing streak in 2006. Best known as an Olympic gold medalist in various track distances, he began racking up acclaim in the half marathon before turning to the marathon in 2002. Gebreselassie, now 34 years old, continues to improve with wins at the 2006 Fukuoka Marathon and the 2006 Berlin Marathon. This runner is famous for striving and achieving his world record goals and he has stated in past years that he was planning to add a marathon world-record to his long resume.
The fourth of the seven fastest men in the world is, of course, Khalid Khannouchi. Khannouchi, an American citizen, had set the then- World Record and the existing London Course Record at the 2002 London Marathon. Following his amazing performance at the 2002 London Marathon, he has battled with recurring injuries to his feet and knees which had stymied his training and performances for three years. After spending most of 2005 in surgery, he returned to race London in 2006 and finished fourth among the same strong field of athletes which once again is back in London for 2007.
2004 Olympic medalists will have a presence. Gold medalist Stefano Baldini returns for his 8th London Marathon. Having had a strong 2006 with a fifth place finish at the London Marathon and a gold medal at the European Championships, this seasoned veteran will be joined by American Meb Keflezighi silver medalist at the Athens Olympics. Keflezighi who is running London for the first time will be following up on a disappointing performance at the 2006 New York City Marathon which was marred by food poisoning. Jon Brown, who was fourth at the 2004 Olympics, will also be in the field - as a British favorite, but a longshot for a top five finish.
Others who have stolen the spotlight as of late are primed to compete against this incredible field - Following his surprise win of the 2006 New York City Marathon, Marilson dos Santos will test his meddle against the worldclass field. And young American Ryan Hall will have his debut marathon in London after setting his rank as the fourth fastest half-marathoner of all time with his 59:43 achieved in January 2007.
The Women's Race
The 2007 London Marathon will also see one of the strongest women's fields ever assembled, despite the withdrawal of 2004 Olympic gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi due to tendonitis. Favorites will include Lyudmila Petrova, Zhou Chunxiu, Berhane Adere, Galina Bogomolova and Constantina Tomescu-Dita to name a few.
With the defending champion, Deena Kastor, not returning, the 2006 runner-up, Lyudmila Petrova will be at the lead. Petrova, 38, has completed over twenty-five marathons in her extensive career but has improved with time achieving her personal best - 2:21:39 at the 2006 London Marathon. Susan Chepkemei who was third behind Petrova in 2006 and also third in 2005 will be returning to strive for a top finish.
Other 2006 top finishers: Adere, Bogomolova and Tomescu-Dita will be returning and all ran the Chicago Marathon in 2006 where all were ahead of Petrova. The 2006 Chicago Marathon was an interesting aberration in which Tomescu-Dita went out at a world record pace only to fade near mile 16. Adere and Bogolomova ran more conservative at Chicago and passed Tomescu-Dita after the 24 mile mark with Adere ending victorious by just three seconds.
Competing London for the first time is Chinese marathoner Zhou Chunxiu who had been building up an impressive running resume at marathons in Asia. Having run four marathons in 2005, she placed in the top five at each - first at the Xiamen Marathon, first at the Seoul Marathon, second at the Beijing Marathon and fifth at the World Championships - which is amazing considering most elites limit the number of marathons they compete in per year. What is astounding is that Chunxiu had achieved a personal best - 2:19:51 - in Seoul and thirteen days later ran and won the Beijing Marathon.
With all the excitement brewing for the 2007 London Marathon, we look forward to seeing what unfolds in both the men's and women's races...
The 2007 London Marathon Elite Lineup Follows:
Men's Open Field Personal Best
Paul Tergat, Kenya 2:04:55 (Berlin, 2003)
Khalid Khannouchi, USA 2:05:38 (London, 2002)
Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia 2:05:56 (Berlin, 2006)
Felix Limo, Kenya 2:06:14 (Rotterdam, 2004)
Martin Lel, Kenya 2:06:41 (London, 2006)
Hendrick Ramaala, South Africa 2:06:55 (London, 2006)
Jaouad Gharib, Morocco 2:07:02 (London, 2004)
Stefano Baldini, Italy 2:07:22 (London, 2006)
Benson Cherono, Kenya 2:07:58 (Milano, 2006)
Hicham Chat, Morocco 2:07:59 (London, 2006)
Atsushi Sato, Japan 2:08:36 (Otsu, 2004)
Marilson Gomes dos Santos, Brazil 2:08:48 (Chicago, 2004)
Jon Brown, United Kingdom 2:09:31 (London, 2005)
Meb Keflezighi, USA 2:09:53 (New York City, 2004)
Ryan Hall, USA Debut
Juan Carlos De la Ossa, Spain Debut
Women's Open Field Personal Best
Mizuki Noguchi, Japan 2:19:12 (Berlin, 2005)
Zhou Chunxiu, China 2:19:51 (Seoul, 2006)
Berhane Adere, Ethiopia 2:20:42 (Chicago, 2006)
Galina Bogomalova, Russia 2:20:47 (Chicago, 2006)
Constantina Tomescu-Dita, ROM 2:21:30 (Chicago, 2005)
Geta Wami, Ethiopia 2:21:34 (Berlin, 2006)
Susan Chepkemei, Kenya 2:21:46 (London, 2006)
Lorna Kiplagat, NED 2:22:22 (Osaka, 2003)
Lyudmila Petrova, Russia 2:22:33 (London, 2002)
Benita Johnson, Australia 2:22:36 (Chicago, 2006)
Salina Kosgei, Kenya 2:23:22 (Berlin, 2006)
Mara Yamauchi, United Kingdom 2:25:13 (London, 2006)
Kiyoko Shimahara, Japan 2:26:14 (Sapporo, 2005)
Kathy Butler, United Kingdom 2:28:39 (Chicago, 2006)
Blake Russell, USA 2:29:09 (Chicago, 2005)
Inga Abitova, Russia 2:33:55
Isabella Ochichi, Kenya Debut