2021 Virgin Money London Marathon

The Four Biggest Questions At The London Marathon

The Four Biggest Questions At The London Marathon

Four of the biggest questions about the 2021 London Marathon.

Sep 23, 2021 by Kevin Sully
The Four Biggest Questions At The London Marathon

Many of the best marathoners in the world will race through the streets of London on Sunday, October 3rd in what will be the second consecutive fall edition of the London Marathon. As usual, the elite field is stacked in both the men's and women's races. Here are four of the biggest questions surrounding the elite field.

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1) How will Brigid Kosgei recover from the Olympic Marathon?

This is a question that could apply to several of the elite athletes in the field who have to respond to the daunting challenge of running in London just eight weeks after competing at the Olympics. Kosgei came up short in her pursuit for the gold medal at the Olympics, but ran a strong second to Peres Jepchirchir. The time wasn’t fast by Kosgei’s standards, but the hot conditions surely made recovery difficult.

Kosgei holds the world record in the event, a 2:14:04 from the 2019 Chicago Marathon. Prior to her silver at the Olympics, she’d won four marathons in-a-row, including the last three in London. 

She’s experienced, familiar with the course and has a personal best four minutes faster than anyone in the field. The quick turnaround between races might be the only thing that can knock her off course. 

2) Who is the best bet to challenge Kosgei?

The abundance of fall marathons this year means that the talent pool is more spread out than in normal years. But there are still four women beside Kosgei who have broken 2:19 and another four who are sub-2:20. 

Lonah Salpeter, Roza Dereje, Birhane Dibaba and Joycilinie Jepkosgei have all under 2:19. Salpeter has the fastest PR of the group--a 2:17:45 from the 2020 Tokyo Marathon, the ninth fastest women's marathon in history. Dereje’s personal best came in a victory at the Valencia Marathon in 2019 (2:18:30). She’s 0-3 lifetime against Kosgei in the marathon, including a fourth place finish at the Olympics. Dibaba’s personal best of 2:18:35 is more recent, though she didn’t finish in the Olympics. Jepkosgei has been a wonder on the roads for several seasons and set the since-broken world record in the half marathon. 

In 2019 Jepkosgei tried her hand at the marathon with high expectations. She won in her debut in New York in 2019 and then took second at the 2020 Valencia Marathon in 2:18:40.  Since she’s still relatively new to the marathon (and has an incredible half marathon time) it stands to reason that she can still develop at the marathon distance. Will it be enough to best Kosgei? It will be tough, but she likely has the best chance of anyone in the field. 

3) Is Shura Kitata The Favorite In The Men’s Race?

This race is too wide open to settle on a favorite. Kitata is the defending champion and also finished runner-up in 2018, but he doesn’t have any other major marathon victories. There’s not much to separate Kitata from the seven men have personal bests quicker than him and also have an impressive array of podium finishes. Kitata ran at the Olympics, but didn’t finish race. The two men who finished directly behind him last year in London, Vincent Kipchumba and Sisay Lemma are back again this year. 

There’s also Birhanu Legese and Mosinet Geremew, two Ethiopians who have run under 2:03. Legese has won Tokyo twice, while Geremew was fourth at London last year and second in 2019. Evans Chebet dropped his personal best from 2:05:00 to 2:03:00 at last year’s Valencia Marathon. In short, this race is wide open.

4) Is There A Darkhorse In The Men’s Race?

It’s hard to call someone with a 2:02:57 personal best a darkhorse; however, it’s fitting for Titus Ekiru. Ekiru has been lost amidst the deep and experienced field. He’s never finished a World Marathon Major and more than half the marathons he has finished have been north of 2:07:00. But he’s coming off a massive personal best of 2:02:57 in Milan this May, the sixth fastest marathon in history. He should be fully recovered (unlike some others who ran in the Olympics) and is in the form of his life.