Abera has London podium in his sights
Ethiopians will take all the beating on streets of capital
BBC1, from 8.30am Saturday
Kenyan athletes have ruled the London Marathon roost on 11 of the last 13 stagings of the elite men’s race but their dominance could come to an end in 2017.
Last year’s one-two of Eliud Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott will both be absent from the starting line at Blackheath, leaving Kenya short on numbers and vulnerable to the significant challenge from east African neighbours Ethiopia.
Kipchoge is the notable omission from the elite men’s start list having decided to focus his efforts on Nike’s sub-two hour record attempt in Monza, while Biwott has withdrawn due to a hamstring injury.
That leaves Ethiopian track legend Kenenisa Bekele, who was third on his London debut last season, as evens favourite after he became the second-fastest marathon runner of all time when winning the 2016 Berlin Marathon last September.
Biwott’s withdrawal is a clear boost to his chances of becoming only the third Ethiopian to win in London.
However, the Kenyan was by no means Bekele’s only credible challenger and with six men who have gone under the 2:06 barrier including the winners of World Marathon Majors in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York in 2016, this looks sure to be a hotly contested race.
And if bookmakers are to believed, Bekele’s biggest challengers will come from compatriots Tesfaye Abera and Feyisa Lilesa.
Both have ran sub-2:05 in their career but Olympic silver medallist Lilesa last achieved that feat five years ago and preference is for the progressive Abera.
The 25-year-old claimed titles in Dubai and Hamburg last season, clocking 2:04:24 in the former – a personal best by over five minutes.
If compatriot Bekele is at the peak of his powers he is the likeliest winner, but with Ethiopians likely to dictate the pace Abera certainly has strong top-three prospects.
While their crown may slip in the men’s race, don’t expect Kenya’s women to suffer the same fate. Two-time winner Mary Keitany is the 2-1 favourite in an open heat but take a chance on Olympic 5,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot making her marathon debut a winning one.
Cheruiyot, who considers London her second home, was second in last month’s Lisbon half-marathon, one second behind 2015 World Marathon champion Mara Dibaba.
T Abera to win men’s race
1pt each-way 6-1 general
V Cheruiyot to win women’s race
1pt each-way 6-1 Betfair, Paddy Power