Kenyan athletes ready for London Marathon

Eldoret's Wall of Champions
Eldoret's Wall of Champions

The rustic mural of pictures on the wall of fame in Eldoret town along the Eldoret – Nairobi highway, tells a story of the dominance of Kenyan athletes in London marathon since its inception in 1981.

From the days of three time champion Martin Lel, Samuel Wanjiru to Joyce Chepchumba and Mary Keitany, the wall is dotted with A list marathoners. The Kenyans love the City of London.

This year, another Kenyan will hope to get his own image on the mural and join the greats when the 2016 edition is held later this month.

Dubbed the battle of champions – the men’s field is tremendous; with the world’s greatest male marathoner going head to head. Five of the athletes are sub-2:05.

Reigning champion Eliud Kipchoge, 2012 and 2014 champion Wilson Kipsang, current marathon record holder Dennis Kimetto, 2015 New York marathon champion Stanley Biwott will all battle it out in London.

Eliud Kipchoge
Eliud Kipchoge. Photo: Michiel Jelijs (used under the Creative Commons licence)

“All the people in London are high class athletes but I will race against myself, because I consider myself the best“, asserted Kipchoge.

Biwott added: “We have a strong group with a lot of experience,” and that “London will be tough and a tactical race.”

Defending champion Kipchoge will be making his second appearance in London after edging out two-time winner Kipsang by five seconds. The 33 year old is more inspired having won the World marathon majors. He says “I am going to London to defend the title, the London course is very good and I have trained well, that is where my focus is. To perform well, you have to train really well”

Wilson Kipsang London Marathon
Wilson Kipsang during 2012 London Marathon. Photo: Tom Page

Wilson Kipsang holds the course record that he set in 2014. The former world record hold loves the london course and he is keen to make up for a below 2015 that also saw him fail to defend the New York marathon crown as well as dropping out of the World Championships in Beijing.

“I have gone there 4 times, this will be my 5th winning 2 times. I will go try and win it again, still stand a chance in training and I am confident.”

With the Rio 2016 Olympic team to be announced after London Marathon, the stakes will be higher for the Kenyan athletes when they line up at the start line in pursuit of the prestigious prize. There is no doubt; an Olympics qualification will be a major incentive.

This is Kipsang’s wish “This is an Olympic year and everyone is looking forward to be selected to compete at Rio. It will be my wish selection of the team should be done before London marathon so that everyone goes to the race knowing”.

Geoffrey Mutai and Dennis Kimetto
Kenyan elite runners Geoffrey Mutai and Dennis Kimetto at the Berlin Marathon 2012. Photo: Dirk Ingo Franke

The world’s fastest man Dennis Kimetto is back in London hoping to improve on his third place last year.

Kimetto is yet to win a marathon since he broke the world record in September 2014.

Kimetto also dropped out in the early stages of December’s Fukuoka Marathon and didn’t finish at the World Championships.

2015 New York Marathon champion Stanley Biwott. Biwott’s best performance in London was a second place in 2014.

Stanley loves the city of London, especially the hospitality.

“24th could be my day,” confidentially states Stanley, “I expect to lower my personal best which is 2:04:55 because London is a flat course, and if you are in a good shape, you can run well,” he concludes.

The women’s line up in London is just as tantalizing with a high quality field led by two time champion Mary Keitany. Also in the team 2015 Chicago Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat, 2013 London champion and Olympics marathon silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo and 2013 Rotterdam marathon champion Jemimah Sumgong.

Mary Keitany
Mary Keitany at the 2011 New York marathon. Photo: Acrb (used under the Creative Commons licence)

Keitany is the fastest woman on the start list, and will be keen to make up for last year when she finished second. She reveals that she wasn’t no fit enough and had suffered from a bought of malaria and pneumonia.

The 34 year old has won London twice in 2011 and 2012 and goes to the English capitol on the bank of winning World major marathon majors alongside Eliud Kipchoge.

“I am motivated to go to London” – Mary Keitany

Keitany says London is her favourite event. She likes the city and is looking at hitting a hat trick.

“Winning New York in spring motivated me. Now I am fit enough to do well, although London will be very competitive but I am going to run my own race and hopeful make it to the Kenyan team for Olympics,” she said.

Martin Lel on the Eldoret Wall of Champions
Martin Lel on the Eldoret Wall of Champions

2015 Chicago Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat will be motivated make her fifth visit to London her most successful yet. Florence who is the world half marathon record holder, warmed up to London by defending her Barcelona Half marathon title..She will be seeking her first victory in London.

Glady Cherono was the 5th Kenyan to compete in London; however, she pulled out due to an injury.