I’m not running in this year’s London Marathon. I was unsuccessful in the entry ballot – again.
Kenenisa Bekele isn’t running in it either. Despite all the speculation, he will make his marathon debut a week earlier in Paris – a race I know so well.
Nevertheless, the men’s elite category at this year’s London Marathon on 13 April is shaping up to be a cracker.
The star attraction is Mo Farah, also running his first marathon. The eagerly-awaited Farah-Bekele rematch, after their sensational Great North Run duel last September, will probably have to wait until 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and the next Olympic marathon. But in truth Farah faces a sterner test from those who will be running against him in London.
What a field of rivals to face on your first marathon! Olympic and World champion Stephen Kiprotich; world record holder Wilson Kipsang; former London Marathon winners Emmanuel and Geoffrey Mutai and the current title-holder, Tsegaye Kebede; impressive Ethiopians Ayele Abshero and Feyisa Lilesa – all will toe the start line beside Farah.
And if that wasn’t enough, Farah must also face the last runner to beat him in a major final – Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia, who took down Farah in the last lap of the 10,000 metres final at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Korea.
So, does Farah have any chance of winning?
On the face of it, no. Farah’s half marathon personal best is the 60:10 he ran when pipped by Bekele in that barnstorming finish to the 2013 Great North Run – and that race has a considerable downhill element. Using the McMillan Running Calculator, that 60:10 P.B. for the half would see him run 2:06:37 for the full marathon. By comparison, Kipsang and both Mutais have run 2:03 – and these guys are a level above the meek competition Farah has faced on the track in recent years. You can’t see them giving an inch to this upstart beginner.
However, Farah has been focusing on this race for over a year – remember that he ran the first half of last year’s London Marathon as preparation for the 2014 edition. Defeat to Bekele in the Great North Run, especially by being so clearly outsmarted, must surely have woken Farah up to the reality of facing worthy foes. And it’s his hometown marathon; don’t dismiss the importance of that.
That said, a Farah victory would be a sensation and a shock. But whoever wins, let’s hope this race lives up to its potential. This might be a rare year when the London Marathon competitor envies the London Marathon T.V. viewer for a change!