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Posted: December 2, 2009  :

(RRW) Athletics: Loaded Field Announced For 2010 Virgin London Marathon

From David Monti
© 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Race director David Bedford's deal with new title sponsor Virgin Money is already paying handsome dividends judging by the elite field he has secured for next spring's Virgin London Marathon. The 30th edition of Europe's largest marathon, scheduled for Sunday, April 25, may very well be its most competitive.

"These elite fields are as good as any we've had in the previous 29 London Marathons," said Bedford, who set a world 10,000m record in 1973. "And I am sure they will produce two superb contests for the London crowds."

Astonishingly, six men in the field have broken 2:05:30, including defending champion, course record holder and reigning Olympic Marathon champion, Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya. Wanjiru, 23, sped through the first half of last year's London contest in 1:01:35, a speed which left the event's pacemakers all but exhausted. The pace slowed down for a few miles, allowing Wanjiru to recharge and fueling a deadly surge in the 19th mile which he covered in 4 minutes and 37 seconds. Only Olympic medallists Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia (bronze) and Jaouad Gharib of Morocco (silver) could answer, but Wanjiru eventually put them away in the final miles to finish in a course record and personal best 2:05:10.

"I will be doing my best to defend my title after I worked so hard to win it last year," Wanjiru said through a statement. "London always has the world's best athletes but with opponents such as Duncan, Abel and Martin it will be even tougher this time."

Wanjiru was referring to compatriots Duncan Kibet (second fastest marathoner of all-time), Abel Kirui (reigning world champion) and Martin Lel (three-time London and two-time New York champion) who will also be in the race. So will Kebede and Gharib, plus two-time ING New York City Marathon champion Marilson Gomes Dos Santos of Brazil, and four-time world road running champion Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea. Tadese made his marathon debut at London last year but was unable to finish.

Bedford's women's field is equally impressive; six women claim lifetime bests under 2:22 (12 sub-2:25). At the top of the heap is two-time defending champion Irina Mikitenko, 37, of Germany, who is also the reigning World Marathon Majors series champion. Mikitenko ran away with the race in rainy conditions in 2008, and overcame a credible challenge from Britain's Mara Yamauchi this year, but she still won by over a minute in 2:22:11. A third consecutive victory would equal the feat of her compatriot Katrin Dörre who won London in 1992, '93 and '94.

"My goal is to win a third London Marathon and equal Katrin's record," the soft-spoken Mikitenko explained. "I love running in London and I am determined to be fit and ready for the challenge, although I know it will be difficult against such strong opponents."

Her key rivals are likely to be Russia's Liliya Shobukhova, who finished third in London last year and was the Bank of America Chicago Marathon champion last October, and Yamauchi, who missed the autumn marathon season this year with a foot injury. Also in contention for the podium will be China's Bai Xue, the reigning world champion; America's Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medallist who won London in 2006; Ethiopia's Magarsa Askale Tafa and Bezunesh Bekele; Japan's Yoshimi Ozaki, last summer's world championships silver medallist; and Russia's Lyudmila Petrova, second at New York last month.

Reigning Olympic champion Constantina Dita is also entered, but the Romanian, who turns 40 in January, hasn't shown her best form as of late. She failed to finish at London last April, then placed 11th in Yokohama last month in 2:36:06 (she ran the second half of the Yokohama race in 1:22:02). Nonetheless, with a good rest and a long build-up before London Dita, who has 14 podium finishes in a marathon career which begun in 1997, could easily be in top shape again. She's broken 2:24 eight times and still holds the Romanian marathon record of 2:21:30.

The complete elite fields follow with personal best times:

MEN - 
Samuel Wanjiru, KEN             2:05:10
Duncan Kibet, KEN               2:04:27
Abel Kirui, KEN                 2:05:04
Martin Lel, KEN                 2:05:15
Tsegaye Kebede, ETH             2:05:20
Jaouad Gharib, MAR              2:05:27
Emmanuel Mutai, KEN             2:06:15
Yonas Kifle, ERI                2:07:34
Marilson Gomes Dos Santos, BRA  2:08:37
Abdi Abdirahman, USA            2:08:56
Yuko Matsumiya, JPN             2:09:18
Takayuki Matsumiya, JPN         2:10:04
Dan Robinson, GBR               2:12:14
Yusei Nakao, JPN                2:14:23
Zersenay Tadese, ERI            DNF (London '09)
Andrew Lemoncello, GBR          Debut

Irina Mikitenko, GER            2:19:19
Deena Kastor, USA               2:19:36
Lyudmila Petrova, RUS           2:21:29
Constantina Dita, ROU           2:21:30
Svetlana Zakharova, RUS         2:21:31
Magarsa Askale Tafa, ETH        2:21:31
Bezunesh Bekele, ETH            2:23:09
Mara Yamauchi, GBR              2:23:12
Bai Xue, CHN                    2:23:27
Yoshimi Ozaki, JPN              2:23:30
Liliya Shobukhova, RUS          2:24:24
Atsede Habtamu, ETH             2:24:47
Mergia Aselefech, ETH           2:25:02
Yukiko Akaba, JPN               2:25:40
Inga Abitova, RUS               2:25:55
Tanith Maxwell, RSA             2:36:38
Fiona Docherty, NZL             2:40:18
Kim Smith, NZL                  DNF (New York '08)
Maria Konovalova, RUS           Debut

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