NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 11 – Kenya’s Stanley Biwott has been forced to withdraw from the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon with a persistent hamstring injury.
Biwott, who won the 2015 New York City Marathon, was Kenya’s leading hope to win the prestigious men’s title on 23 April. Kenyan athletes have won 11 of the last 13 men’s races, including the last three thanks to Wilson Kipsang and Eliud Kipchoge.
Biwott finished runner-up in 2014, fourth in 2015 and was second again last year in a personal best of 2:03:51 as Kipchoge set a new course record. He has withdrawn from the race because he doesn’t feel able to perform at his best.
“I thought I had the injury under control but in the last 10 days the problem has got worse,” he said. “I don’t feel I can be a protagonist in London this year as usual, but I will come back in 2018 and try to win the race.”
Bekele finished third on his London Marathon debut 12 months ago and went on to win the Berlin Marathon last September with the second quickest time in history.
He is one of six men in the field with who have run marathons quicker than 2:06, while the line-up contains two marathon world champions, three of the top five finishers from last summer’s Olympic Games, and the winners of the Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York in 2016.
The Ethiopian contingent is especially strong this year and the main challenge to Bekele may now come from his compatriots. Among those likely to threaten the triple Olympic track champion are the Rio Olympic silver medallist, Feyisa Lilesa, the 2016 Dubai Marathon champion, Tesfaye Abera, and Tilahun Regassa, who finished fifth and sixth in London in the last two years.
In Biwott’s absence, it falls to Abel Kirui and Daniel Wanjiru to lead the Kenyan challenge. The experienced Kirui won the world marathon title in 2011 and 2013, and was a surprise winner of the Chicago Marathon last October. Wanjiru lowered his personal best by almost three minutes to win the 2016 Amsterdam Marathon.
Britain’s Louise Damen has also been forced out of this year’s race. The Winchester runner was due to take on Jo Pavey, among others, in a battle to win selection for this summer’s IAAF World Championships in London.