Kenya and Ethiopia renew rivalry in London Marathon today morning

 October 3, 2021 Kenya's Joyciline Jepkosgei celebrates winning the elite women's race REUTERS

Defending champion Joyciline Jepkosgei and Amos Kipruto, the 2019 world silver medalist, must be at their best to stop strong Ethiopian field at the London Marathon today (10am). 

Jepkosgei and Ethiopia’s world 10km record holder Yalemzerf Yehualaw headline an incredibly deep women’s line-up for the World Athletics Elite Platinum. 

Seven women in the field have PBs faster than 2:19, while three of those – Yehualaw and Jepkosgei included – have bettered 2:17. 

Yehualaw heads to the British capital undefeated in all four of her road races this year. She only made her marathon debut as recently as April, winning in Hamburg with 2:17:23 – the fastest marathon debut in history. 

Earlier in the year she had set a world 10km record of 29:14, while more recently she warmed up for London with a 1:04:22 victory at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon in late August. 

Third-placed Kenya's Amos Kipruto celebrates after competing in the Men's Marathon at the 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships in Doha in the night between October 5, 2019 and October 6, 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Jepkosgei has raced just once this year, placing seventh at the Boston Marathon in April, but her past record underlines her status as a formidable opponent. She won in London last year in 2:17:43, her second victory in a marathon major, having also won in New York in 2019. 

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei have clashed just once before, at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, where Yehualaw finished three places ahead of the Kenyan. But in a non-championship race over double the distance, the outcome today could be quite different. 

Former half marathon specialist Joan Chelimo Melly finally got to grips with the marathon earlier this year, setting a Romanian record of 2:18:04 to win in Seoul. She placed seventh in London last year, but is an improved runner since then. 

Kenya’s Judith Jeptum Korir was a late addition to the field but is still one to watch. Earlier this year she won in Paris with a course record of 2:19:48, then improved on that mark to take silver at the World Championships in Eugene, clocking a PB of 2:18:20. 

Mary Ngugi’s Personal Best may not be as fast as some of her rivals, but this will be her first run on one of the faster big city courses. Two successive third-place finishes in Boston underlines her pedigree. 

An Ethiopian victory seems fairly likely as the five fastest athletes in the field – including multiple global champion Kenenisa Bekele and defending champion Sisay Lemma all hail from the East African nation. But recent form is important too, and Kenya’s Amos Kipruto and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi carry plenty of that into today’s race. 

Lemma, who won in the British capital last year in 2:04:01, has reached the podium in his past four marathon majors. The Ethiopian has a PB of 2:03:36 and will be keen to get close to – or improve on – that today. 


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