The Greatest Marathon Field Ever? Six Thoughts On 2015 Virgin Marathon London And Kipsang Vs. Kimetto Vs. Bekele Vs. Kipchoge

January 8, 2015

The professional men’s field for the Virgin Money London Marathon was released this morning at 5:00 am Eastern. The list of pros is as follows:

Runner                                                    PR
Wilson Kipsang (Kenya)                  2:03:23

Dennis Kimetto (Kenya)                  2:02:57
Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya)               2:03:13
Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya)                   2:04:05
Ayele Abshero (Ethiopia)                 2:04:23
Sammy Kitwara (Kenya)                 2:04:28
Tsegaye Mekonnen (Ethiopia)        2:04:32
Stanley Biwott (Kenya)                    2:04:55
Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia)             2:05:04
Tilahun Regassa (Ethiopia)             2:05:27
Samuel Tsegay (Eritrea)                 2:07:28
Serhiy Lebid (Ukraine)                    2:08:32
Aleksey Reunkov (Russia)              2:09:54
Ghebrezgiabhier Kibrom (Eritrea)   2:10:00
Marcin Chabowski (Poland)            2:10:07
Koen Raymaekers (Netherlands)   2:10:35
Scott Overall (Great Britain & NI)   2:10:55
Michael Shelley (Australia)              2:11:15
Javier Guerra (Spain)                      2:12:21
Steve Way (Great Britain & NI)       2:15:16
Christian Kreienbühl (Germany)     2:15:35
Pedro Ribeiro (Portugal)                  Debut

Here are our six thoughts about the field.

Dennis Kimetto Sets the World Record on Berlin Dennis Kimetto Sets the World Record on Berlin

1) This Field is Ridiculous. Fantasy Track and Field in the Marathon.

The men’s field is so good that we almost don’t know what to say about it. We could talk for hours about how ridiculously good it is.  Every year London comes up with a tremendous field, but they have topped themselves this year. This is fantasy track and field territory.

Consider this.

  • It includes ALL of the top 5 guys in the world top 10 rankings for 2014 and seven of the top 9. Yes, five for five in terms of the world’s best for 2014.
  • The field has the last two world record holders in the event.
  • The field has a record 8 guys in it who have broken 2:05 in their career (the 2013 race had 7 sub-2:05 guys in it). The 9th fastest guy in the field is a guy by the name of Kenenisa Bekele. Heard of him? The 5000 and 10,000 world record holder has a marathon pb of 2:05:04.

2) Kipsang vs Kimetto vs Kipchoge vs Bekele. See point #1. This field is ridiculous. 

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Kimetto vs Kipsang (Image via Virgin London Marathon) Kimetto vs Kipsang (Image via Virgin London Marathon)

Kipsang versus Kimetto. That’s the matchup that everyone wanted to see. The world #1 versus the world record holder, but then throw in Chicago champ Eliud Kipchoge (who has averaged 2:04:42 in his four career marathons, including three wins, and was world ranked #2 by LRC) and the wild card in 5,000/10,000m world record holder Kenenisa Bekele and we may be getting ourselves on a plane to see this one in person for the first time since we flew to London in 2008 to see Ryan Hall race.

Wilson Kipsang Breaks the Course Record in London Wilson Kipsang Breaks the Course Record in London

3) If Wilson Kipsang wins this race, he’ll cap off what is undoubtedly the greatest four-marathon stretch in history.

In our year-end rankings, we raved that Kipsang’s current streak (2:03:23 WR at 2013 Berlin, 2:04:29 CR at 2014 London, 2:10:59 win at 2014 New York) is the greatest three-marathon stretch in history. Still, he had some competition in that category, particularly from the late Sammy Wanjiru (2:06:32 Olympic record at 2008 Olympics, 2:05:10 CR at 2009 London, 2:05:41 CR at 2009 Chicago). If Kipsang can somehow win 2015 London over the greatest marathon field ever assembled, his streak won’t just go down as the greatest four-marathon stretch as history. It will have to be considered among the very best stretches in the history of track and field.

4) London will be Kenenisa Bekele’s fourth marathon in 13 months.

Bekele debuted in Paris on April 6, 2014. He ran his second marathon in Chicago on October 12, 2014 and will run his third two weeks from now in Dubai on January 23, 2015. On April 26, 2015, Bekele will run career marathon #4 in London. Anyone who criticized Bekele for taking the easy way out and “dodging” the competition by running Dubai (a very competitive marathon in its own right) owes Bekele an apology. Adding Bekele to an already stellar field is a nice bonus for fans of the sport. We expected him to skip London or Boston after racing Dubai.

Time span between Bekele’s four career marathons

Paris → Chicago: 27 weeks
Chicago → Dubai: 15 weeks
Dubai → London: 13 weeks

Does running London so quickly after Dubai make sense for Bekele? He had 27 weeks to get ready for Chicago and came away with a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2:05:51. Perhaps he and new coach Renato Canova decided that a long buildup doesn’t serve Bekele well.

We’ll get a read on how well Bekele performs off a shorter buildup after Dubai, but it is possible to run well in a spring marathon after running Dubai. Last year, Dubai champ Tsegaye Mekonnen was fifth in London; 2014 Dubai runner-up Markos Geneti was fifth in Boston. In 2013, Lelisa Desisa won Dubai and followed it up with a win in Boston just 11 weeks later.

One thing working in Bekele’s favor in 2015 is the fact that London this year is two weeks later than it was last year. There are 13, not 11 weeks between the two races.

Emmanuel Mutai Made the 2014 World Record Race in Berlin Emmanuel Mutai Made the 2014 World Record Race in Berlin

5) Global marathoning is so good in 2015 that some 2:04 guys are essentially afterthoughts.

The London field is so strong that you can read the first 632 words of the press release (halfway down the Word document they sent us) and find no mention of the #4 and #5 guys in the world and five guys that have broken 2:05 (including one that broke 2:04). Six years ago, only three men had broken 2:05 in the history of the world.

So we’ll pause for a moment to mention Emmanuel Mutai (2:03:13 pb, LRC world #5 in 2014), Ayele Abshero (2:04:23), Sammy Kitwara (2:04:28, LRC world #8 2014), Tsegaye Mekonnen (2:04:32, LRC world #4 2014) and Stanley Biwott (2:04:55). Sub-2:05 may not be fast enough to get top billing anymore, but it’s still incredibly fast.

6) In terms of pacing, please learn from the lessons of 2013 and 2014.

The 2013 field was totally loaded as well (it contained the course record holders from NYC, Boston, London, Chicago, Berlin and Dubai plus the Olympic champ) and that resulted in a too fast 61:34 first half (there were eight men — not including rabbits — still together at that point). All of the leaders ended up fading badly over the second half and Tsegaye Kebede’s winning time of 2:06:04 was the slowest in six years.

Now that the WR is 2:02:57 and the London course record is 2:04:29, we hope the organizers and runners realize that the WR likely isn’t going to be set in London regardless of the field assembled and go out accordingly.

London 2013 was fun in that it was such a unique race — all of the leaders cratered over the final 13.1 — but with a field this good, we’d rather see a more sensible opening half (1:02:00 or slower, but bet they shoot for 1:01:45) that is evenly paced, allowing the top guys to really attack each other in the latter stages of the race. That is the best way to set up a race, and also a fast time. When Dennis Kimetto set his world record in Berlin, he went out in 1:01:45 and ran 1:01:13 the second half.

Even pacing may be more important than the half-way split. Last year, Haile Gebrselassie led the field through an opening downhill 5k of 14:21 (that’s 2:01:06 pace) and any chance of the world record was gone. In 2013, while hitting half-way in 61:34 the London leaders were running that 5k of the race in 14:30 (2:02:21 pace which is too fast too early).

We still advocate that the majors like London should only have rabbits every other year. Spice it up.

Competition, not time, is what makes races most compelling and the competitive field in London 2014 is the best ever assembled.


Discuss the 2015 London Men’s field in our world famous forum: 2015 London Marathon men’s elite field is amazing – greatest ever?

Re-live last year’s London Marathon:’s Coverage of 2014 London Marathon

London Stats

London 2013 vs 2014




# sub 2:03




#sub 2:04



2 (3)

#sub 2:05 (cumulative)

4 (7)

3 (6)

5 (8)

#sub 2:06 (cumulative)

4 (11)

1 (7)

2 (10)

#sub 2:07 (cumulative)

1 (12)

1 (8)

0 (10)

# sub 2:08 (cumulative)

3 (15)

3 (11)

1 (11)


Kimetto vs Kipsang Kimetto vs Kipsang
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