TOKYO, Japan, Jan 22- Former world record-holder Wilson Kipsang will face nine other men with sub-2:07 personal bests at the Tokyo Marathon when he lines up for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on 26 February.
Now in its 11th year, the Tokyo Marathon course has been adapted by eliminating several hills in the closing stages, so organisers are hopeful that the Japanese all-comers’ record of 2:05:18 will be challenged.
Kipsang broke the marathon world record in 2013 with a clocking of 2:03:23 in Berlin. He improved his best to 2:03:13 last year, which is just 16 seconds shy of the current world record.
The 34-year-old, who took Olympic bronze in 2012, has run faster than 2:05 every year from 2010 to 2016.
Kipsang will line up against 2014 Tokyo Marathon champion Dickson Chumba, 2008 Olympic and 2009 world bronze medallist Tsegaye Kebede, 2013 world bronze medallist Tadese Tola and Kenya’s Bernard Koech, all of whom have PBs faster than 2:05.
Evans Chebet is perhaps the most consistent runner in this year’s Tokyo Marathon. Chebet made it on to the podium in his five most recent marathons, running faster than 2:09 in each of those appearances.
His PB of 2:05:31 was set when finishing third behind Kipsang in Berlin last year.
Bernard Kipyego, who has run faster than 27 minutes for 10,000m and 60 minutes for the half marathon, will return to Tokyo, having finished third in 2013 and second in 2016.
The race also serves as one of the qualifying races for the Japanese marathon team for the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
Top domestic runners who will be vying for the coveted spots include 2:07:39 performer Masato Imai, Hiroaki Sano, Koji Gokaya, Takuya Fukatsu, Yuki Takamiya, Yuta Shimoda and Yuma Hattori.
-Saina faces Kabuu and 2015 winner Dibaba-
Kenya’s Betsy Saina is the most intriguing entrant for the women’s race.
The 28-year-old will be making her marathon debut in Tokyo, but expectations will be high after a stellar 2016 season which included a fifth-place finish in the 10,000m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where she clocked a PB of 30:07.78.
She went on to record a PB of 1:07:22 to win the Great Scottish Half Marathon in just her second race over the distance.
Saina will face a trio of top Ethiopians, including 2015 Tokyo Marathon winner Berhane Dibaba. The 23-year-old finished fifth in Tokyo last year and second in 2014, setting a lifetime best of 2:22:30.
Compatriot Amane Beriso recorded one of the fastest marathon debuts of all time when she finished second in Dubai last year in 2:20:48.
Like Dibaba, Amane Gobena will also be returning to the Tokyo Marathon. A former winner in Toronto, Osaka, Seoul, Xiamen and Istanbul, Gobena finished second in Tokyo last year with a lifetime best of 2:21:51.
Lucy Kabuu is the fastest in the women’s field. Although she raced sparingly in 2016, the Kenyan has a best of 2:19:34 and clocked 2:20:21 just two years ago.
Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 2:03:13
Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:04:32
Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 2:04:38
Tadese Tola (ETH) 2:04:49
Bernard Koech (KEN) 2:04:53
Evans Chebet (KEN) 2:05:31
Marius Kipserem (KEN) 2:06:11
Bernard Kipyego (KEN) 2:06:19
Shumi Dechasa (BRN) 2:06:43
Alfers Lagat (KEN) 2:06:48
Gideon Kipketer (KEN) 2:08:14
Geoffrey Ronoh (KEN) 2:09:29
Lucy Kabuu (KEN) 2:19:34
Amane Beriso (ETH) 2:20:48
Amane Gobena (ETH) 2:21:51
Berhane Dibaba (ETH) 2:22:30
Sarah Chepchirchir (KEN) 2:24:13
Betsy Saina (KEN) debut
Kotomi Takayama (JPN) debut