Wilson Kipsang will defend his title at the Tokyo Marathon while two-time Olympic 5000m champion Meseret Defar will make her marathon debut at the IAAF Gold Label road race on 25 February.
Kipsang, the former world record-holder, won last year’s race in an Asian all-comers’ record of 2:03:58, having been on course to break the world record for the first 30 kilometres. The 35-year-old Kenyan, who went on to finish second at the 2017 New York Marathon, will return to the Japanese capital next month in a bid to improve on his own course record.
He will line up against a field that includes four other men with PBs quicker than 2:05.
Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Abera, who ran a PB of 2:04:24 to win the 2016 Dubai Marathon, is the fastest of Kipsang’s opponents in Tokyo. Compatriot and fellow former Dubai winner Tesgaye Mekonnen is also in the field.
Kenya’s 2014 Tokyo Marathon winner Dickson Chumba will also return. After winning in Tokyo in 2014, he went on to clock a PB of 2:04:32 in Chicago and has finished third at the past three editions of the Tokyo Marathon.
Hiroti Inoue, the top Japanese finisher in Tokyo last year, leads the domestic entries. He clocked a PB of 2:08:22 to finish third last year and went on to compete at the IAAF World Championships.
“Expect a very exciting race this year,” said race director Ted Hayano. “The assembled field may be good enough to target the world record of 2:02:57 as well as the Japanese record of 2:06:16.”
DEFAR SET TO MAKE LONG-AWAITED MARATHON DEBUT
Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar is the leading name in the women’s field. A winner of two Olympic 5000m titles, two world 5000m titles and four world indoor 3000m titles, the 34-year-old has spent the past few years – when not injured or pregnant – making a gradual transition to the roads.
She has won three half marathons on US soil and finished second at the 2013 Great North Run in 1:06:09. With track PBs of 8:23.72 for 3000m, 14:12.88 for 5000m and 29:59:20 for 10,000m, athletics fans will be keen to see what Defar manages on her marathon debut.
She will line up against compatriot Ruti Aga, who finished second at the 2017 Berlin Marathon in a PB of 2:20:41 and won the recent Houston Half Marathon in a PB of 1:06:39, and fellow Ethiopian Shure Demise, whose 2:20:59 performance at the 2015 Dubai Marathon is the fastest performance ever by an U20 athlete.
Kenya’s 2015 world silver medallist and 2016 Tokyo champion Helah Kiprop and 2017 Paris Marathon champion Purity Rionoripo are also set to compete.