BY STAR REPORTER AND AGENCIES
Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai and Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia have been added to the men’s and women’s elite fields for the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 26 April, organisers for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race announced on Monday (16).
The pair are the two most prominent names in a second wave of athletes signed up for the London Marathon’s 35th anniversary races. Mutai has won the New York Marathon twice in recent years and tasted victory at the 2012 Berlin Marathon. He famously set an unofficial world best when he won the 2011 Boston Marathon in 2:03:02, although the run was not acceptable for official records because of the downhill Boston course.
He joins a field featuring many of his compatriots, including the first ever marathon clash between world record holder Dennis Kimetto and defending London champion Wilson Kipsang; plus the second fastest marathon runner in history, Emmanuel Mutai, the reigning Chicago Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge, and last year’s London Marathon runner-up Stanley Biwott.
The line-up contains the three fastest marathon runners of all time, and six of the 10 quickest men in history. Mutai, who has a legal personal best of 2:04:15, is one of nine men to have run the gruelling 26.2 miles in under 2:05.
A training partner of Kipsang and Kimetto, the 33-year-old Kenyan was due to compete at the Tokyo Marathon on February 22, but had to withdraw from that race because of a niggling injury and instead has prepared himself to compete with the rest of the world’s best in London.
Mergia’s record is barely less impressive. She returned from pregnancy to win the women’s race at the lucrative Dubai Marathon in January for a record third time, while her personal best of 2:19:31 makes her the third quickest on paper in a women’s field containing the last three London Marathon champions—Edna Kiplagat, Mary Keitany and Priscah Jeptoo— plus last year’s runner-up, the world half marathon record holder Florence Kiplagat.
Mergia will take on Kenya’s ‘Fantastic Four’ in London alongside fellow Ethiopian Tirfi Tsegaye, the 2014 Tokyo and Berlin Marathon champion, who is another new addition to the women’s roster.
Tsegaye broke the course record when she won the Tokyo Marathon last February, and ran a personal best of 2:20:18 to take victory in Berlin last September.
This will be Tsegaye’s London Marathon debut but Mergia runs the race for the third time having reached the podium on her first appearance in 2010.
The addition of these two champions means the race now features four women who have run quicker than 2:20 and eight who have broken 2:21.
Another new name further down the women’s list is that of Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse, who won 2008 Olympic silver medals at 5000m and 10,000m.
A former world record holder at 5000m, Abeylegesse moved up to the marathon two years ago and finished fifth at last summer’s European Championships in Zurich.
The initial fields announced in January included Kenenisa Bekele, the multiple Olympic and world track champion, who broke the Paris Marathon course record on his debut at the distance last April. However, Bekele has been forced to withdraw from the 2015 race with a right Achilles tendon injury sustained during the Dubai Marathon in January. “Unfortunately, I have had to pull out of this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon because of the problems I had while running in Dubai,” said Bekele.
“I desperately wanted to run in London this year, but the injury to my Achilles has not healed sufficiently for me to compete against such a great field. I hope to be back in 2016 and ready to challenge the best marathon runners in the world in London,” he added. Great Britain’s Steve Way has also withdrawn with a gluteal injury.
Courtesy of the-star.co.ke