LONDON, April 24-Reigning Virgin Money London Marathon champion Wilson Kipsang admitted he is expecting the biggest danger to come from his training partner and world record holder Dennis Kimetto in Sunday’s race.
The Kenyan pair will go head-to-head for the first time over the marathon distance in the 35th edition of the event and Kipsang knows it will be a harder race than ever before.
He was joined at the men’s elite press conference by Kimetto, 2011 London champion Emmanuel Mutai, 2014 Chicago Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge, last year’s London runner-up Stanley Biwott and two-time New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai.
“I’m expecting a big challenge from Dennis,” said Kipsang, who set the London course record in 2:04:29 last year. “I broke the world record in Berlin in 2013, then he broke the record last year. This is the first time we’ve met in a marathon but we’ve met in half marathons before.
“I’ve beaten him once [in Olomouc, the Czech Republic in 2014] and he’s beaten me once [in Ras Al Khaimah in 2012]. I have more experience in marathons but he has done very well in the few he’s done.”
Kipsang’s triumph last year was his second victory at the race, following his win in 2012. He has now triumphed in the last three of his World Marathon Majors races, including the New York City and Berlin marathons, and could become only the fourth man to win in London three times if he takes the victory on Sunday.
“My main aim is not the world record but to retain the title and run a good time,” said Kipsang. “With this kind of field, it will be a fast race and more tactical. We will start to keep the pace up and then we’ll see what happens. The main thing is it’s a very fast race so it’s about how you’ve prepared yourself and how you approach it.
“I analyse the other competitors and try to develop a race plan. There are new guys racing her this year so you always need to have a flexible approach.”
Gesturing to his fellow Kenyan runners, the reigning champion said: “If this was a World Championship field, this would be enough.
“When we are together, people can really see the potential in the athletes and it’s easier to get people excited. With many strong guys, there is a high chance of us running a fast time. It’s not something that we need to think about – when there are this many strong guys, it will be a fast time. Easy.”
Kipsang, 33, and Kimetto revealed that they regularly train with Geoffrey Mutai in Iten, as part of a larger group of 60 runners. The pair also both cited Paul Tergat, a former marathon world record holder, as their hero.
World record holder Kimetto is now 31 but his first international race wasn’t until the 2012 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, where he beat Kipsang by 21 seconds. Kimetto also admitted he hadn’t trained seriously as a runner until around 2007, when he turned 23.
“I’m really happy to be here, my preparation has been good,” said Kimetto. “I’ve prepared in the same way that I did for Berlin when I set the world record.”
Asked about a potential debut appearance in the World Championships in Beijing this summer, or at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year, he replied: “My plan is to finish this race first and then see how it goes”.
-Story and photo London Marathon