Tokyo Marathon: Kipchoge faces biggest test

Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after winning gold medal in the men's marathon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. [File]

At 3am Kenyan time tomorrow, global stars will have gathered for this year’s first World Marathon Major in Tokyo, Japan.

And by 3:10am, the start gun will be fired and Eliud Kipchoge – a legendary athlete with one of the most impressive CVs in the marathon will be embarking on another journey of history-making.

The double Olympic Champion is however facing the biggest test in his two-decade career.

Kipchoge, 39, will be in the strongest marathon field since the 2023 Boston Marathon.

Yesterday, Kipchoge posted: “We have spent the past few days in Japan and I can say I am very excited to run in a country where running is a crucial part of the sports culture. I am looking forward to experiencing the Japanese excitement for the marathon on Sunday.”

Kipchoge will be running the 12th Marathon Major of his road racing career.

Benson Kipruto, who ran faster than Kipchoge on his way to third place in last year’s Boston Marathon is competing in the Tokyo race.

The Kapsabet-based Kipruto, 32, is considered one of the strongest contenders for the 2024 Tokyo Marathon title tomorrow morning.

He raised eyebrows when he triumphed at the 2021 Boston and Prague marathons.

Last year, Kipruto finished third behind Tanzania’s Gabriel Geay at the Boston Marathon. The race was won by Evans Chebet, and Kipchoge finished in sixth place.

Another compatriot looking to shine in Tokyo is Vincent Ngetich, 25, who came in second behind Kipchoge at the 2023 Berlin Marathon.

At the Tokyo Marathon, Kipchoge holds the 2:02:40 course record from 2022. Brigid Kosgei set the women’s fastest mark of 2:16:02 the same year. The two athletes are former marathon world record holders.

During tomorrow’s showdown, Kipchoge will likely be closely watching Ugandan, Victor Kiplangat’s steps and moves.

Why so? Kiplangat produced a surprising speed to win the 2023 World Marathon in Budapest, and they are likely to square it out at the 2024 Paris Olympic marathon in August.

Kiplangat is a former mountain run champion who has successfully transitioned to road racing, and is likely to prove a point in Tokyo, and ahead of the Olympics.

In 2022 Kiplangat ran his 2:05:09 Personal Best at the Hamburg Marathon to place fourth before revealing his championship pedigree by cruising to a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Last year he placed second in the Osaka Marathon, racing 2:06:03 ahead of the World Championships.

Kipchoge is returning to the streets of Tokyo as he builds up his preparations for his third Olympic gold medal in Paris, France five months away.

He is well known in Japan, having glorious memories after winning the 2022 edition of the Tokyo Marathon and bagging his second Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics - when the marathon was run on the streets of Sapporo.

Way back in 2007, Kipchoge before he transitioned to the marathon claimed a world 5000m silver at the Osaka World Championships.

In the women’s category, Rosemary Wanjiru, who trains in Iten under athletics coach Joseph Cheromei will be eying another glory in tomorrow’s race.

The women’s field comprises reigning World marathon champion Amane Beriso of Ethiopian and Dutch star, Chicago Marathon champion Sifan Hassan among other bigwigs.

Kenyan-born Israeli athlete Lonah Chemtai Salpeter who won the 2020 Tokyo Marathon is also a major threat to the title.

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