(12-Jan) -- With a snappy 16:14 split from 35 to 40 kilometers, Ethiopia's Tigist Tufa became the surprise winner of last April's Virgin Money London Marathon, defeating pre-race favorite and two-time London champion Mary Keitany of Kenya by 18 seconds. That victory launched Tufa, 28, to the top echelon of marathon running.
"I was planning to be ready to be tough," Tufa told reporters after the race.
Keitany, the #2-ranked marathoner in the world last year by Track & Field News, got her revenge at the TCS New York City Marathon last November, running away from the field in the final 10 kilometers, relegating Tufa to third place and winning by nearly a minute and one-half.
"What I can say is that I was very confident in coming to New York City Marathon," Keitany told the media after the race. "I wanted to come and try to defend my title."
Tufa and Keitany will again meet at next April's Virgin Money London Marathon, organizers announced today. The April 24th race features a star-studded field where Tufa and Keitany are only the tip of a massive iceberg of talent. Indeed, the elite women's field boasts last year's winners of the Berlin, Chicago, Dubai, London, New York, and World Championships marathons. Five women have broken the 2:20 barrier, while a total of nine have broken 2:22.
"Tigist Tufa showed last year that predictions mean nothing in marathon racing when she beat all the favorites with a thrilling victory," commented event director Hugh Brasher in a media release. "This year's line-up is no less exciting with five members of the prestigious sub-2:20 club all set to challenge the champion. With the Rio Olympics around the corner providing an extra incentive to all the elite runners, it is set to be another race to remember."
The other key contenders from Kenya are Gladys Cherono (2:19:25 PB), last year's BMW Berlin Marathon champion; Florence Kiplagat (2:19:44), last year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon winner; Priscah Jeptoo (2:20:14), the 2012 Olympic Marathon silver medalist; and Jemima Sumgong (2:20:48), the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon runner-up. From Ethiopia, three-time Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon winner Aselefech Mergia (2:19:31 PB), and reigning world champion Mare Dibaba (2:19:52) are also in the race.
Moreover, the race will serve as the British trials for the 2016 Olympics. The first two British women to finish the race who have met the 2:31:00 U.K. Athletics qualifying standard will earn provisional berths on the team (U.K. Athletics will announce the team the day after the race). British athletes competing are Sonia Samuels (2:28:04 PB), Freya Ross (2:28:10), Alyson Dixon (2:29:30), Louise Damen (2:30:00), Susan Partridge (2:30:46), Jess Coulson (debut) and Charlotte Purdue (Debut).
The Virgin London Marathon is part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors series and will be the second event in the AWMM Series X which begins at the Boston Marathon on April 18. The current series, Series IX, ends at the Tokyo Marathon on February 28th.
Here is the full elite women's field:
Tigist Tufa (ETH) 2:21:52
Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:18:37
Gladys Cherono (KEN) 2:19:25
Aselefech Mergia (ETH) 2:19:31
Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:44
Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:19:52
Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 2:20:14
Feyse Tadese (ETH) 2:20:27
Jemima Sumgong (KEN) 2:20:48
Jessica Augusto (POR) 2:24:25
Volha Mazuronak (BLR) 2:25:36
Rkia El Moukim (MAR) 2:26:33
Diana Lobacevske (LTU) 2:28:03
Sonia Samuels (GBR) 2:28:04
Freya Ross (GBR) 2:28:10
Alyson Dixon (GBR) 2:29:30
Louise Damen (GBR) 2:30:00
Susan Partridge (GBR) 2:30:46
Irvette Van Blerk (RSA) 2:31:26
Cassie Fien (AUS) 2:38:53
Jess Coulson (GBR) Debut
Charlotte Purdue (GBR) Debut
PHOTO: (l to r) Tigist Tufa, Mary Keitany and Aselefech Mergia and her daughter Sena Gemechu after the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)