Four of world's fastest target Chicago Marathon
Four of the world's fastest marathoners and the top two finishers in last year's women's race are primed for the October 13 Chicago Marathon, organisers said Thursday.
Kenya's Moses Mosop, Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Mutai, and Ethiopian Ayele Abshero all rank among the top 11 marathon performers in history. Mosop leads the way as the second fastest marathoner of all-time with a personal best 2 hours 3 minutes, 6 seconds. Kimetto owns a personal best of 2:04:16, Abshero has posted a 2:04:23 and Mutai a 2:04:40.
In the women's race, Ethiopia's Atsede Baysa and Kenya's Rita Jeptoo will face one another for the first time Baysa edged Jeptoo in a thrilling sprint finish last year.
"It will be hard to top last year when the top three men all broke the previous course record and the women's race was decided by a single second, but this is the field that can do it," said executive race director Carey Pinkowski.
"These athletes are among the most exciting in the sport, not only with their fast times, but with their proven ability to win on the biggest stages in the world. We have two returning champions in Moses from 2011 and Atsede with her memorable victory last year. They are the ones to beat, but they'll have their work cut out for them against deep competition."
The men's field will challenge the course rrecord of 2:04:38 set last year by Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, who represented his country this summer at the IAAF World Championships marathon.
Mosop was the runaway winner in 2011 but missed last year's race due to his selection to Kenya's 2012 Olympic team and subsequent injury.
"I look forward to returning to a course and a city that I enjoyed so much," said Mosop. "I lost my course record last year to Kebede and I was disappointed that I was not there to defend it. I know the competition will be great once again this year and I'm excited to return to Chicago."
Kimetto arrives as arguably the hottest marathoner in the world. He finished second in his debut at the 2012 BMW Berlin Marathon in 2:04:16, establishing a debut world record on a record-eligible course. In February he won the 2013 Tokyo Marathon in course record time. Twenty-two-year-old Abshero burst onto the marathon scene in his first attempt at the distance by winning the 2012 Dubai Marathon in a course record 2:04:23, becoming at 21 the youngest athlete to break 2:05.
Mutai is the most seasoned marathoner of the four sub 2:05 entrants. He won the London Marathon in 2011 and has had four other top-five London finishes. He was fifth in Chicago in 2008, second at the 2009 IAAF World Championships and runner-up at the 2011 New York City Marathon.
Yoshinori Oda leads a strong contingent of Japanese athletes. Oda was fourth in the 2011 Tokyo Marathon in a personal best 2:09:03.
In its 36th year and a member of the World Marathon Majors, the Chicago Marathon annually attracts some 45 000 participants, including a world-class elite runner and wheelchair athlete field, and an estimated 1.7 million spectators.
This year's race will mark the first major marathon in a US city since the two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring scores more.
Chicago organisers last month announced heightened security measures for the event, including strict control of access to the start and finish line areas.