NAIROBI, November 25 – Reigning champion Martin Lel returns to defend his London Marathon title on April 26 2009 against one of the strongest fields ever assembled for a big city race.
After victories in 2005, 2007 and 2008, Lel is aiming to become the first man to win four London Marathons and only the second man to win three in a row, following the Mexican Dionicio Ceron who had three straight victories between 1994 and 1996.
“It’s wonderful to be coming back to London,” said the 30-year-old Kenyan. “I have great memories from my last three victories and will be doing my best to put my name in the record books with a fourth win.”
Last year Lel set a superb course record of 2:05:15, making him the fourth quickest marathon runner ever.
But with all three Olympic medallists from Beijing, a former World record holder, the first four from London last year, two other previous London champions, and a much-fancied debutant in the field, this could be the Kenyan’s toughest test yet.
Chief among his challengers will be Sammy Wanjiru whose victory at the Beijing Olympic Games was described by some as the greatest marathon performance of all time. The 22-year-old Kenyan will have high hopes of improving on his second place last year when he finished just nine seconds behind his older compatriot.
Wanjiru will again meet stiff opposition from former 2 time World Champion and Olympic Silver medallist Jaouad Gharib of Morocco and Bronze medallist and BUPA Great North Run winner, Tsegaye Kebede from Ethiopia.
Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco and Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai, third and fourth in London last year, will also be after their first victories.
Khalid Khannouchi of USA, a former world record holder, and Felix Limo of Kenya, will want to regain the London titles they won in 2002 and 2006 respectively. Both are hugely experienced marathon men.
Yet, many will have their eyes on a debutant – Zersenay Tadese. The Eritrean is the reigning three World title holder on the roads at 20km (2006) and half marathon (2007 and 2008), former World Cross Country champion, and the 2004 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist.
Tadese joins his compatriot Yonas Kifle, a sub-2:08 man at his best, while Viktor Röthlin of Switzerland will lead the European challenge after finishing sixth at the Olympic Games.
Flora London Marathon race director David Bedford said: “With 11 men who have run faster than 2:08 this is probably the highest quality field we’ve ever assembled for the men’s race.”
“In particular, we are delighted to welcome back our reigning champion Martin Lel and the Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru whose performance so delighted us this summer. But with such tough opposition they will have to be at their very best to win the 2009 London Marathon title. It’s a mouth-watering prospect.”
The 2009 men’s elite field:
Martin Lel KEN 2:05:15
Sammy Wanjiru KEN 2:05:24
Abderrahim Goumri MAR 2:05:30
Khalid Khannouchi USA 2:05:36
Felix Limo KEN 2:06:14
Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:06:15
Tsegaye Kebede ETH 2:06:40
Hendrick Ramaala RSA 2:06:55
Jaouad Gharib MAR 2:07:02
Viktor Röthlin SUI 2:07:23
Yonas Kifle ERI 2:07:34
Tessema Abshiro ETH 2:08:26
Dathan Ritzenhein USA 2:11:06
Zersenay Tadese ERI Debut
Hicham Bellani MAR Debut