The die is cast. Amos Kipruto, the defending champion, must be at his best to stop Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele at the 43rd London Marathon showdown on Sunday.
Kipruto, who carries an impressive 2:03.13 personal best to the starting line, will be up against Bekele, the third fastest man in history at 2:01.41.
There is no doubt that Sunday's race will be a landmark occasion for marathon enthusiasts as, for the first time in history, two men who have run inside two minutes will square it out.
Apart from Kipruto and Bekele, 23-year-old Kelvin Kiptum, the winner of the Valencia Marathon and third fastest man in history at 2:01.51, is also part of the classy lineup.
In 2022, Bekele fell short of his target, finishing 74 seconds behind winner Kipruto, as his training was interrupted with hip and joint injuries.
Three-time Olympic champion Bekele, considered one of the greatest marathoners of all-time, will be on the London starting line for the fifth time since his debut in 2016. His return to London probably stems from his failure to win the race in four previous attempts.
His best finish remains a second place in 2017, while his fastest time in the British capital was last year’s 2:05:53, when he set a masters world record in the age 40 group.
Kiptum, who comes from Chepkorio in Elgeyo Marakwet, must prove that his best mark in Valencia last year was no fluke.
Ethiopia's Birhanu Legese (2:02:48) and Mosinet Geremew (2:02:55) makes the field that has four of the five fastest men in marathon history. Throw in Ethiopia's world champion Tamirat Tola and the athletics stage will left in awe.
Kipruto’s win at last year’s race was the biggest victory of his career and his first World Marathon Majors win.
The 30-year-old Kipruto, who comes from Eastview area near Kapsabet, has a mountain to climb in his bid to retain the crown.
Boosted by his first major marathon win, Kipruto hopes for another great race as he eyes the Olympic Games Paris next year.
Tola, who won the 2022 World Championships marathon in Oregon, will be one of several men aiming to prevent Kipruto from winning back-to-back titles.
Tola, 31, is in a fine run of form over the 42km distance, winning the 2021 Amsterdam Marathon and finishing third at the 2022 Tokyo Marathon (behind Kipchoge and Kipruto) before winning his world title last year.
Also in the field is last year’s runner-up Leul Gebresilase (2:04:02), the second-placed finisher in both 2020 and 2021 Vincent Kipchumba (2:04:28) and two-time New York City Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
British legend Mo Farah will also be back to the start line of the marathon. The event returns to its springtime slot after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.