Priscah Jeptoo To Try To Defend As Tirunesh Dibaba Debuts At Star-Studded 2014 London Marathon

Stacked Women’s Race Will Serve As Debut For Tirunesh Dibaba Arguably The G.O.A.T. Track Runner

Press Release from London Marathon. Quick Takes added by
January 22, 2014

The Olympic champion, the world champion and one of the greatest distance runners of all-time will be among Priscah Jeptoo’s opponents when she defends her women’s title at the Virgin Money London Marathon on 13 April.

Jeptoo produced the world’s second fastest time of 2013 to win the London Marathon last April and the Kenyan will need to be equally impressive this year as she steps up to defend her crown against an elite field that includes three athletes who have run quicker than two hours 20 minutes and eight who have finished in under 2:25, plus the three-times Olympic track champion and multi-world record breaker Tirunesh Dibaba, who is making her marathon debut.

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Jeptoo will return to London full of confidence after enjoying a great year in 2013. The Olympic silver medallist also won the Great North Run half marathon in September and added the New York Marathon title in November, a victory which made her half a million dollars richer as she clinched the World Marathon Majors prize.

Jeptoo’s main threat could again come from Tiki Gelana, the Ethiopian who beat her to the Olympic title in pouring rain at London 2012 but saw her London Marathon chances disappear last year when she unfortunately clashed in a racing incident with Josh Cassidy, one of the world’s top wheelchair racers.

Gelana eventually finished 16th and a few months later dropped out of the World Championships marathon in Moscow. As the fastest woman in the field, the Ethiopian record holder will feel she has a point to prove on her return to the British capital.

Jeptoo will also face stiff competition from Edna Kiplagat, the Kenyan who retained her world title in Moscow last August and has been runner-up in London for the last two years. Kiplagat will believe she is due a win here, as will her namesake and compatriot, Florence Kiplagat, who won the Berlin Marathon for a second time last September. She was fourth here in 2012 and sixth last year.

No doubt the favourites will all keep a wary eye on Tirunesh Dibaba, however, as the Ethiopian steps up to the marathon after a glittering career on the track. Dibaba won the world 10,000m title for the third time in Moscow, adding another gold medal to a collection that also includes two world 5000m crowns and three Olympic titles, plus numerous world records and cross country honours.

Dibaba was due to make her debut last year but withdrew from the field with a shin injury just a month before the race. She made a successful return to the roads last September after the Moscow World Championships, breaking the Ethiopian 10km record in Tilburg and finishing third behind Jeptoo and Meseret Defar at the Great North Run.

Two other Ethiopians will also be worth watching. Aberu Kebede has twice won the Berlin Marathon and last year added victories in the Tokyo and Shanghai Marathons. Her record in London is less successful, however – she was ninth in 2011 and sixth two years ago.

Feysa Tadesse also comes with strong credentials. Having won the Shanghai Marathon in 2012, she clinched the Paris Marathon last April with a personal best just outside 2:21.

Ukrainian record holder Tetyana Hamera-Shmyrko leads the European challenge. She won the Osaka Marathon in impressive style last January and was fifth at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Portuguese pair Jéssica Augusto and Ana Dulce Félix could also make an impact if they’re at their best. Augusto has twice finished eighth in London and was seventh at the Olympics while Félix has a top-four finish in New York to her name.

Kim Smith returns to the London Marathon four years after she broke the New Zealand record to finish seventh here in 2010. She was sixth in New York last November, her third top 10 finish in the ‘Big Apple’.

Domestic interest rests with Amy Whitehead and Emma Stepto who look set to battle with marathon debutante Gemma Steel for the honour of being first Briton home.

London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher said: “We are delighted to welcome back Priscah Jeptoo. Our champion was a deserved winner of the World Marathon Majors title and has shown with her performances over the last two years that she will be extremely difficult to beat.

“We are also pleased to see the world and Olympic champions on our start line again. Both Edna and Tiki had reason to feel frustrated last year – Edna because she just missed out for a second year in succession, and Tiki because of her unfortunate accident. I am sure they will both be determined to make their returns to London successful.

“All three will have to be at their very best to win the title in 2014 as our elite athlete coordinator David Bedford has again put together a field to match any in the world. With so many proven performers, and Tirunesh Dibaba making her debut, we have quite a race in prospect.”

Quick Takes Added By

2014 London Marathon Women’s Field
Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 2:20:14 2013 London Marathon champion
Tiki Gelana (ETH) 2:18:58 2012 Olympic marathon champion
Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:44 2013 Berlin Marathon champion
Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:50 2011 & 2013 World marathon champion
Aberu Kebede (ETH) 2:20:30 2013 Tokyo Marathon champion
Feysa Tadesse (ETH) 2:21:06 2013 Paris Marathon champion
Tetyana Hamera-Shmyrko (UKR) 2:23:58 2013 Osaka Marathon champion
Jéssica Augusto (POR) 2:24:33
Kim Smith (NZL) 2:25:21
Ana Dulce Félix (POR) 2:25:40
Nadia Ejjafini (ITA) 2:26:15
Diane Nukuri-Johnson (BDI) 2:29:54
Amy Whitehead (GBR) 2:33:44
Emma Stepto (GBR) 2:35:05 40+
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) Debut GOAT? (1:06:56 half)
Gemma Steel (GBR) Debut (1:10:19 half)
Lyudmila Konavalenko (UKR) Debut (1:09:43 half)

Quick Take #1: A very, very stong field (the full field appears on the right). We’re a bit surprised that both the London press release as well as David Monti’s article on London didn’t hype up Tirunesh Dibaba much more. Yes, Priscah Jeptoo seems nearly unbeatable right now but Dibaba moving up the marathon is arguably the most anticipated debut in women’s marathoning history, certainly the most-anticipated debut since Paula Radcliffe in 2002. Yet the press release hyped up Jeptoo as “one of the greatest distance runners of all-time.”

Um, we’ll take it upon ourselves to hype up Dibaba as the GOAT.

Have people forgotten that Dibaba is an eight-time gold medallist on the track (5 Worlds, 3 Olympics), four-time gold medallist in cross country, the world record holder at 5000 (14:11.15) and the third fastest in history at 10,000 (29:54.66)?

Yes she’s very inexperienced on the roads but so is Mo Farah and that’s not stopping him from getting tons of press.

We are now anointing ourselves as the leaders of the Tirunesh Dibaba hype bandwagon.

Quick Take #2: There are three World Marathon majors in the first half of the year – Tokyo, London and Boston. The Tokyo field isn’t out yet but here is how Boston/London stack up in terms of the top 10 in the world rankings and top 10 fastest performers from 2013. With three of the top six from Track and Field News‘ World Rankings in 2013 and four of the top six fastest from 2013, plus the debut of Tirunesh Dibaba, there is no doubt that London once again the most competitive spring marathon.

TFN”s Top 10 World Marathon Rankings/Spring Marathon
1. Priscah Jeptoo – London
2. Rita Jeptoo – Boston
3. Edna Kiplagat – London
4. Jemima Jelagat – Boston
5. Aberu Kebede – ??
6. FLorence Kiplagat – London
7. Sharon Cherop – Boston
8. Tirfe Tsegaye – ??
9. Feysa Tadesse – London
10. Valeria Staneo – ??

Priscah Jeptoo wins 2013 London. *More 2013 London Marathon Photos

The World’s 10 Fastest Women From 2013/Spring Marathon Choice
1 2:19:57 Rita Jeptoo – Boston
2 2:20:15 Priscah Jeptoo – London
3 2:20:48 Jemima Jelagat – Boston
4 2:21:06 Feysa Tadesse – London
5 2:21:13 Florence Kiplagat – London
6 2:21:32 Edna Kiplagat – London
7 2:22:28 Sharon Cherop – Boston
8 2:22:34 Caroline Kilel – Boston
9 2:22:46 Mariya Konovalova – ??
10 2:23:00 Filomena Chepchirchir – Boston

Looking at those lists, we wonder, “Who is headlining Tokyo?”

Quik Take #3: What a difference a year makes. Last year, heading into London. Tiki Gelana was the favorite and Olympic champ, a 2:18 marathoner who had won her last three races. Priscah Jeptoo was the “best marathoner who never has won a major.” Now Jeptoo is the London and New York champ and world #1 and Gelana is well we dont know.

After her unacceptable collision with a wheelchair racer, Gelana didn’t do anything the rest of the year. She dropped out of Worlds but that’s about it. We really hope she’s back on top of her game in London in 2014.

We also hope she was compensated in a significant way by London. If you know, please email us.

Quik Take #4: As crazy good as Jeptoo was in 2013 (anyone remember the 30:03 she put in the middle of the half-marathon with Dibaba and Defar?), its’ worth noting she’s never broken 2:20.

More: 2013 London Marathon Women’s Race: Priscah Jeptoo Finishes First in Race Marred by Wheelchair Collision