Who to watch in the 2020 London Marathon

You don’t want to miss the two fastest marathoners go head-to-head.

  • The London Marathon, taking place on Sunday, October 4 for elites only inside a biosecure bubble, features a highly anticipated matchup between Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele.
  • The women’s field is led by world record-holder Brigid Kosgei, and she’s joined by four other runners who have dipped under the 2:20 mark in the marathon.
  • The elite women start at 4:15 p.m. AEST, the elite men start at 7:15 p.m. AEST, and the elite wheelchair race begins at 10:10 p.m. AEST.

Amid the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the London Marathon race organisers have found a way to bring the world’s best marathoners safely together for one of the most anticipated races of the year.

The London Marathon, which was originally scheduled to run in April, will be the first World Marathon Major to take place since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11. Taking place on Sunday, October 4, and open to elites only, London will be the first race of the year for many of the runners, including world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge and 2019 Berlin Marathon winner Kenenisa Bekele.

Organizers are taking rigorous safety measures to create a safe biosecure bubble in which runners will contest the unprecedented 42 km. The race will take place on looped course around St. James’s Park, closed to spectators. Runners will be staying at an athlete-only hotel, surrounded by 40 acres on which runners can train, and anyone inside the bubble will be subjected to strict COVID-19 testing protocols.

Here, we outline which elite marathoners to watch in the 40th annual London Marathon, and how to tune in on race day in the British capital.

Who to Watch

The men’s race features a historic matchup, and the suspense has been building for the last two years.

At the 2019 London race, Kipchoge won his 10th consecutive marathon in 2:02:37, the second-fastest marathon time ever run on a record-eligible course. At the time, the Olympic gold medalist’s performance ranked behind only his world record of 2:01:39, which he ran at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

Just five months later, Bekele almost broke the world record in Berlin where he ran a breakthrough 2:01:41 to become the second fastest marathoner ever.

The last time Bekele competed against Kipchoge was the 2018 London Marathon, where Kipchoge overcame balmy weather to beat runner-up Tola Shura Kitata by 32 seconds. Bekele finished a distant sixth that day but evolved into a record contender when he took 80 seconds off his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon one year later. Sunday’s race will be the first time in over two years that the two fastest marathoners in history will compete against each other.

Kipchoge and Bekele will be joined by six athletes who have run sub-2:05 for the marathon, including Mosinet Geremew, Mule Wasihun, Sisay Lemma, Tamirat Tola, Marius Kipserem, and Kitata. The runners will also enjoy expert pace-making from four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah. And with few racing opportunities this year, the competitors are primed to put their fitness to the test.

On the women’s side, world record-holder Brigid Kosgei leads the field. The marathoner from Kenya shattered the world record at the 2019 Chicago Marathon where she ran 2:14:04 to beat Paula Radcliffe’s previous world record of 2:15:25, which had stood since 2003. Prior to Kosgei’s performance, the second fastest women’s marathon in history was 2:17:01.

Kosgei attempted to break the one-hour world record on the track at the Diamond League Brussels meet on September 4 but was disqualified for stepping onto the infield in the closing stages. After the race, Kosgei hinted that a standout performance was in store for London. “I have definitely more in me than what I showed today,” Kosgei told race organizers. “I don’t have a specific time for London, but I hope I can show the world what I’m capable of.”

Kosgei will be joined by four women who have also run under 2:20 for the marathon, including world champion Ruth Chepngetich, 2018 London Marathon winner Vivian Cheruiyot, Valary Jemeli, and Degitu Azimeraw.

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