Boston, London kick-off WMM season; Wanjiru, Mikitenko atop the leaderboard
The second half of the 2008-09 World Marathon Majors series continues this spring as reigning men's champion Martin Lel of Kenya returns to defend his Flora London Marathon title on Sunday, April 26 against one of the strongest fields ever assembled for a big city race. A head-to-head showdown pits the 2008 Olympic champion and World Marathon Majors (WMM) Series leader Sammy Wanjiru (40 points) of Kenya against his compatriot and closest rival, the defending Flora London Marathon champion Lel (26 points), on the streets of the British capital.
World Marathon Majors excitement kicks off six days earlier on Monday, April 20, Patriots' Day in Boston, when former WMM Series champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya seeks to become the first four time consecutive champion in the Boston Marathon's 113-year history. Boston's sponsor John Hancock Financial has recruited a field which will see Cheruiyot, who won the first WMM Series (2006-07), facing stiff competition in Evans Cheruiyot, the 2008 Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion, and American star Ryan Hall, who enters Boston having run the fastest of any man in the field. The two Cheruiyots are not related, but the countrymen from Kenya are in a five-way tie for third place in the World Marathon Majors standings with 25 points. Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco is entered in London and also has 25 points.
This year's Flora London Marathon includes 10 men who have run faster than 2:08:00. Boston, the world's oldest annual marathon, remains the place where the coveted title is career-transforming.
Last fall, the WMM Series women's race came down to the final day of the season at the ING New York City Marathon in November before Irina Mikitenko of Germany claimed the $500,000 prize.
With 50 points, Mikitenko is also leading the 2008-09 series. She has a 20-point advantage over Alevtina Biktimirova of Russia and 2008 Olympic champion Constantina Dita of Romania. Dita and Catherine Ndereba (16 points), who has won two World Championship gold medals and two Olympic silver medals, will contest the London race. Boston's most recent two champions - Lidiya Grigoryeva (2007) of Russia and Dire Tune (2008) of Ethiopia - are among a tie for fourth place with 25 points, and both are returning there this April. Almost all of the women on the top of the current WMM Series leader board with the exception of the injured Paula Radcliffe will be in action next month. Also running Boston is American sensation Kara Goucher, who placed third in her marathon debut last year at the ING New York City Marathon.
All four previous Series champions are in the hunt for the next WMM title. Mikitenko and Lel were the second pair of WMM champions to be named after 2006-2007 victors Wami and Cheruiyot.
The World Marathon Majors series is proving popular with more than the elites. While the five mass participatory city races draw in excess of 300,000 entrants each year, a growing swell of recreational runners aspire to compete in all five events.
UPCOMING EVENTS 2009
April 20 Boston Marathon
April 26 Flora London Marathon
Aug 22-23 IAAF World Track & Field Championships (Berlin)
Sept 20 real,- BERLIN-MARATHON
Oct 11 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Nov 1 ING New York City Marathon
UPCOMING EVENTS 2010
April 19 Boston Marathon
April 25 Virgin London Marathon
Sept 26 real,- BERLIN-MARATHON
Oct 10 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Nov 7 ING New York City Marathon
For the World Marathon Majors Series scoring system, current standings and the starting fields of both the Boston Marathon and Flora London Marathon, go to: WorldMarathonMajors.com.