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2009 London Marathon Preview
by Sharon Ekstrom
On this page: Overview | Men's Race | Women's Race | Full Lineup/History
The twenty-ninth edition of the London Marathon will showcase the world's finest marathoners with the best lineup ever assembled - better even than the lineup for the Olympics. While the glory of winning the Olympics Marathon surpasses any other victory, the politics involved in the country selections (think Kenya) for the event and/or the 'make or break' one-time shot at qualifying for the games in a single trials race (think USA) sometimes excludes the best talent from attending the Olympics. While the Olympics restricts its roster to three competitors per country, the London Marathon has no such restriction and can fill its field with ALL of the best runners. Then there's the money. It's a well-known secret that the appearance fees offered by the London Marathon are more than are offered by any other marathon - and with those appearance fees come time requirements ensuring a fast race. London knows how to get the talent, wants the talent and knows how to get them to race fast.
The roster for the 2009 London Marathon includes seven Olympic medalists, two World Champions, the world's two fastest half marathoners, two former Marathon World Record holders - and, eight of the ten fastest marathoners of all time (that was true when the field was created, since then - in early April 2009 - Duncan Kibet and James Kwambai have jumped into the top ten list with their runs at the Rotterdam Marathon). Really, the only notable misses are the men's and women's world record holders: Haile Gebrselassie and Paula Radcliffe - but the London Marathon will be hoping to topple the world record, at least on the men's side.
The London Marathon really looks like a rematch of the 2008 Olympics with ALL of the men's and women's medalists in attendance. Add to that the return of the top four men and top three women (and seven of the top ten in each gender) from the 2008 London Marathon - and many others who will be expected to do well. [see the table at the bottom of this page for the list of competitors and visit the past matchups page to see how these competitors have fared against each other.
The Men's Race
After an amazing 2008 London Marathon where three men broke the standing course record of 2:05:38 set by Khalid Khannouchi, the 2009 race seems to have a tough act to follow. With seven of the top ten finishers from 2008 returning and the 2009 line-up including eight sub 2:07 runners (a time six of these men achieved in 2008); the caliber of the field guarantees a great race. The field includes defending champion Martin Lel, reigning Olympic marathon gold medalist Sammy Wanjiru, inveterate challenger Abderrahim Goumri and burgeoning talent Emmanuel Mutai. In a race dominated by Kenyan victories for five years, three time champion Lel aims to carry on the tradition attempting an unprecedented fourth win of the men's race; but the road to victory will not be easy.
Most Victories at London:
- Ingrid Kristiansen (NOR): 84,85,87,88
- Martin Lel (KEN): 05,07,08
- Dionicio Ceron (MEX): 94,95,96
- Paula Radcliffe (GBR): 02,03,05
- Katrin Dorre (GER): 92,93,94
This 2009 edition of the marathon could very well be called the Olympic Games redux with the gold, silver and bronze medalist from the 2008 Beijing Games marathon - Wanjiru, Jaouad Gharib, Tsegaye Kebede - in attendance. Also along is 2004 Athens Games silver medalist Meb Keflezighi. Having recovered from injuries, Keflezighi is once again on the rise with victories at the 2009 Cross Country National Championships and the 2009 USA National Half Marathon Championships with a new personal best of 61:25. Also returning is former course record holder Khannouchi, who like Keflezighi had setbacks from injuries and dropped out during the 2007 London Marathon; but achieved something of a comeback in his fourth-place finish at the Olympic Trials marathon. Other notables are American Dathan Ritzenhein, reigning World Championship gold medalist in the marathon Luke Kibet and half marathon specialist Zersenay Tadese (who has the second fastest half marathon ever - behind Sammy Wanjiru) debuting in the distance.
Notably missing from the London Marathon field is Stefano Baldini (ITA) a regular to the men's roster, who has participated at the race nine times. It would not be expected that the 2004 Athens Olympic Games Marathon gold medalist would really factor in the overall results, but he is a favorite of event fans and twice had been a runner-up of the London Marathon in 1997 and 2003. His personal best was a 2:07:22 from London in 2006. There has been no recent news of his training or running plans or mention of retirement. Baldini is a prolific marathoner with thirteen sub-2:10 marathons to his resume.
The Women's Race
The 2009 London Marathon has the best gathering of female marathon talent ever organized. Of those missing we wish that Paula Radcliffe, Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher might have attended, but that could not be this year. Two of the women in the field have previously run sub-2:20 and are likely to do so again: Catherine Ndereba, Zhou Chunxiu, and five others have run sub-2:22 and may be looking for something better: defending champion Irina Mikitenko, Berhane Adere, Lyudmila Petrova, Olympic Gold Medalist Constantina Dita, Svetlana Zakharova and Gete Wami.
Our favorite woman in this race, Catherine "The Great" Ndereba boasts two World Championship titles, four wins of the Boston Marathon, and a silver medal from the Beijing Olympics Marathon among other accolades. Ndereba, a former world record holder, has yet to add a victory at the London Marathon to her extensive resume. As was the case at the Olympics Marathon, 2007 London Marathon champion Zhou Chunxiu will be giving Ndereba a run for her money. At the 2007 World Championships, Chunxiu missed out on gold by eight seconds and at the 2008 Beijing Games she missed the silver medal by a narrow one-second margin, losing both to Ndereba. In her third marathon head-to-head, Chunxiu may break the "losing" streak.
Also, expected in the lead pack are 2008 Beijing Games gold medalist Constantina Dita, two-time Berlin Marathon winner Gete Wami, as well as Svetlana Zakharov and Lyudmila Petrova. The top tier of this elite women's field were born between 1968 and 1978, proving that age nurtures talent in the distance. Of them, many are over thirty-five which qualifies as women's masters in Europe. Most of these women all have decades of marathon experience and the strategy needed to race against such a talented group. This is not to say defending champion Irina Mikitenko will be lost among the veterans in her fourth career marathon. Despite having male pacemakers at the 2008 Berlin Marathon, Mikitenko has posted the most recent fastest marathon finish of 2:19:19 from that 2008 race. Others to watch are Mara Yamauchi and Kate O'Neill whose recent improvements will bring them closer to the front runners of this race.
As noted above, we wish that Paula Radcliffe - who is almost synonymous with the London Marathon could be in attendance. Oddly, Radcliffe holds two records that the women may chase at London (but not likely catch this year): her world record of 2:15:25 was achieved in 2003, but utilized a male pacer and is not included as a time for the top bonus for the women's only fields hosted at London. Instead, the time to beat for the women will be Radcliffe's women-only world and course record of 2:17:42, set in 2005.
|Martin Lel||26||Kenya||1||2:05:15, London, 2008|| History |
|Sammy Wanjiru||22||Kenya||2||2:05:24, London, 2008|| History |
|Abderrahim Goumri||32||Morocco||3||2:05:30, London, 2008|| History |
|Tsegaye Kebede||22||Ethiopia||4||2:06:10, Fukuoka, 2008|| History |
|Felix Limo||28||Kenya||5||2:06:14, Rotterdam, 2004|| History |
|Emmanuel Mutai||31||Kenya||6||2:06:15, London, 2008|| History |
|Hendrick Ramaala||37||South Africa||7||2:06:55. London, 2006|| History |
|Jaouad Gharib||36||Morocco||8||2:07:02, London, 2004|| History |
|Atsushi Sato||33||Japan||9||2:07:13, Fukuoka, 2007|| History |
|Yonas Kifle||32||Eritrea||10||2:07:34, Amsterdam, 2007|| History |
|Tessama Abshiro||22||Ethiopia||11||2:08:26, Hamburg, 2008|| History |
|Luke Kibet||26||Kenya||12||2:08:52, Eindhoven, 2005|| History |
|Meb Keflezighi||33||USA||13||2:09:53, New York, 2004|| History |
|El Hassan Lahssini||35||France||14||2:10:10, Amsterdam, 2004|| History |
|Ridouane Harroufi||27||Morocco||15||2:10:14, Seoul, 2008|| History |
|Tomas Abyu||30||Great Britain||16||2:10:37, Dublin, 2007|| History |
|Dathan Ritzenhein||26||USA||17||2:11:07 Olympic Trials (NYC), 2007|| History |
|Rafal Wojcik||36||Poland||18||2:13:02, Debno, 2008|| History |
|Martin Dent||30||Australia||19||2:14:46, Fukuoka, 2008|| History |
|Ivan Galan||29||Spain||20||2:24:55, London, 2008|| History |
|Zersenay Tadese||27||Eritrea||21||Debut|| History |
|Hicham Bellani||29||Morocco||22||Debut|| History |
|Irina Mikitenko||36||Germany||101||2:19:19, Berlin, 2008|| History |
|Catherine N'Dereba||36||Kenya||102||2:18:47, Chicago, 2001|| History |
|Zhou Chunxiu||30||China||103||2:19:51, Seoul, 2006|| History |
|Berhane Adere||35||Ethiopia||104||2:20:42, Chicago, 2006|| History |
|Lyudmila Petrova||40||Russian Federation||105||2:21:29, London, 2006|| History |
|Constantina Dita||39||Romania||106||2:21:30, Chicago, 2005|| History |
|Svetlana Zakharova||39||Russian Federation||107||2:21:31, Chicago, 2002|| History |
|Gete Wami||34||Ethiopia||108||2:21:34, Berlin, 2006|| History |
|Yuri Kano||30||Japan||109||2:24:27, Tokyo, 2008|| History |
|Tomo Morimoto||25||Japan||110||2:24:33, Vienna, 2006|| History |
|Mara Yamauchi||35||Great Britain||111||2:25:03, Tokyo, 2008|| History |
|Martha Komu||26||Kenya||112||2:25:33, Paris, 2008|| History |
|Mika Okunaga||26||Japan||113||2:27:16, Osaka, 2009|| History |
|Kirsten Melkevik Otterbu||38||Norway||114||2:29:12, Frankfurt, 2007|| History |
|Yesenia Centeno||37||Spain||115||2:31:16, Hamburg, 2008|| History |
|Inga Abitova||27||Russian Federation||116||2:33:55, Mumbai, 2006|| History |
|Kate O'Neill||28||USA||117||2:34:04, Chicago, 2008|| History |
|Liliya Shobukhova||31||Russian Federation||118||Debut|| History |