Former world record marathon holder Wilson Kipsang will lead a star-studded field to the 12th Tokyo Marathon run on Sunday.
Kipsang, who set the Japanese all-comers record of 2:03.58 on the redesigned course last year, is out to replay the feat.
The 35-year-old Kipsang, who boasts an impressive 2:03:13 personal best, will attempt the world record when he lines up against fellow Kenyans that include Bernard Kipyego, a runner up in Tokyo Marathon in 2016.
Dickson Chumba, the 2014 Tokyo Marathon winner, last year’s runner-up Gideon Kipketer and his rural home neighbour Vincent Kipruto, 2017 fifth place finisher, will also compete.
Mountain to climb
Kenyans have a mountain to climb against Ethiopians Tesfaye Abera, who bask in a personal best of 2:04:24 and the reigning Hamburg champion Tesgaye Mekonnen as well as Feyisa Lilesa, the 2016 winner.
Eritrean Kibrom Ghebrezgiabhier and Japanese duo of Hiroto Inoue and Yuta Shitara are in the mix.
Iten-based Kipsang will compete in Tokyo Marathon for the second year in a row.
Last year, he crossed half way point in 1:01:22 and stayed within the world record pace until 30km.
He said after the race: “With good weather and strong competitors, Tokyo Marathon course remains a potential ground to break the world record.
Just like last year, three different set of pacemakers will lead the elite group, with the first set leading the runners at the “world record pace,” which translates to 2:54 to 2:55 for each kilometre.
The second set of pacemakers will lead the runners at the “Japanese national record pace,” which translates to 2:58 for each kilometre.
Finally, the third set of pacemakers will lead the pack at three minutes per kilometre pace. These three sets of pacemakers will push the pace until 30km. It will be quite interesting to see who will be keep close tabs with the pacesetters.
“Expect the very exciting race this year. The assembled field may be good enough to target the world record of 2:02:57,” said Tad Hayano, the Tokyo Marathon Race Director.
In women’s race, the 2015 world marathon silver medallist Hellah Kiprop and Purity Rionoripo, who clocked her personal best of 2:20:55 to win Paris Marathon last year, are the only Kenyans in the race. Sarah Chepchirchir, the defending champion, will miss the event. They will face Ethiopia’s two-time Olympic 5,000m champion Meseret Defar, who is making her marathon debut after being out of action for two years.
The other Ethiopians in the line-up include Shure Demise, Ruti Aga and Birhane Dibaba, who makes her fifth consecutive appearance in Tokyo Marathon.
The 32-year old Kiprop, who finished seventh at the 2017 London Marathon in 2:28:1, head to Tokyo Marathon for the third time, having won the 2016 edition and finishing second in 2015.