Of the four marquee contenders, three are former London winners and three (though not the same three) have personal best times of under 2 hours 20 minutes.
Last year’s winner, reigning world champion Edna Kiplagat, returns to defend her title. Her namesake Florence, whom she beat into second place in a sprint finish down the Mall, will try to avenge her defeat. London winner the year before, Priscah Jeptoo will also be gunning to regain the title and demonstrate how an awkward running style is no bar to speed or success. And then there’s Mary Keitany – twice winner of London, reigning New York champion and in PB terms the fastest of the four.
Competing with that illustrious quartet are other noteworthy athletes such as European champion Christelle Daunay of France and 2014 New York runner-up Jemima Sumgong of Kenya.
For me, Keitany and Edna Kiplagat would be slight favourites, but after that it’s hard to call between those two. Whatever happens, it’s shaping up to be a right old battle on the streets of London.
All that’s missing, says you, is the world record holder.
Ah, but she will indeed be there. For this year’s race will see the return of none other than Paula Radcliffe, three-time London winner and world record holder.
In fact, Radcliffe holds both world records at the women’s marathon. Yes, there are two.
Her 2003 winning mark and world record at the time, an astounding 2:15:25, is considered to have been run with the aid of male pacers, a practice which world athletics’ ruling body the IAAF subsequently tried to discount for record purposes. The IAAF then adjudged the ‘true’ world record to be Radcliffe’s almost-as-impressive London 2005 winning time of 2:17:42.
After much controversy, the IAAF compromised by calling Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 the ‘mixed gender’ women’s marathon world record and her 2:17:42 the ‘women only’ record.
However you look at it, Radcliffe is by far the fastest marathon woman ever. Of the London 2015 field only Keitany has got within a minute of the slower of those two record times.
But Radcliffe won’t be challenging for this year’s London Marathon title. Now in her 40s and ravaged by persistent injury, she aims to make this her valedictory race before an adoring home crowd on the course she dominated.
Whether you like it or not, all the attention at this year’s London Marathon may be dominated not by the winner but by the longest lap of honour in athletics history.