Sifan Hassan, one of the greatest endurance runners of all-time, is the surprise headline name in what will be the finest marathon field ever assembled at this year’s London Marathon.
Racing against world record holder Brigit Kosgei, debutant Eilish McColgan and a total of 11 women who have run under 2hr 20min for the 26.2 mile distance, Hassan will make an audacious attempt to combine racing on the track with the longest Olympic event of all.
Hassan famously competed in an unprecedented treble of distance events over 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 – finishing with two gold medals and a bronze – and will again push beyond conventional boundaries in 2023.
She says that the track World Championships in August will still be her priority but that she is intrigued to see what is possible over the marathon, a distance she has not yet completed even in training.
The men’s London Marathon field is similarly stacked with huge depth and, as well as being Sir Mo Farah’s likely swansong in front of his home crowd, will include four of the five fastest men’s marathon runners in history.
Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathon runner of all is missing, however, and will instead race in the Boston Marathon a week before the London event, which will return this year to its usual Spring date on April 23.
The London Marathon takes place on Sunday, April 23, 2023.
Sir Mo Farah has insisted he would only have entered the London Marathon if he thought that he could be competitive after being forced out of the event last year with a hip injury following an impressive victory in the inaugural ‘Big Half’ race over 13.1 miles.
“I just want to give it one more shot and it all depends on my body to see what I can do,” said Farah. “I'm not a spring chicken. I’d love to be able to finish at home. It's just nice to say ‘goodbye’ and I think it will be quite emotional. At the same time, I just kind of think in my mind: ‘Now just get ready for London and see where I am’. It’s not long to go now before I retire, for sure.
“I wouldn't want to compete unless I was competing with the guys. It's one race at a time. I don't think I'm going to go to another Olympics. But, at the same time, I’d like to be able to just see what I can do.
“I'm not going to go to the Olympics - 2023 will probably be my last year. But, if it came down to it towards the end of the year, and you are capable and got picked for your country, then I would never turn that down.”
Farah was beaten over 10,000m by the club runner Ellis Short last May but was then matching Bashir Abdi, the Olympic marathon bronze medallist who eventually finished third in London, during training before injury struck.
That left Farah unable to run until December but he is now gradually increasing his mileage and planning a high-altitude camp in Ethiopia before hopefully being competitive in London in three months. Farah won the mini-marathon at the London Marathon as a junior and the event still holds a vast emotional pull. As well as four Olympic gold medals, Farah is the British record-holder at every Olympic distance from 1,500m to the Marathon, over which he finished third in London in 2018 before winning in Chicago later that year.
“Last year I was in such a great place - training had gone well - I was able to do a lot of decent sessions and kept up with the boys,” said Farah. “I honestly thought ‘this is it’. I had that spirit, that fight, in me to be competitive. I’ve got nothing to prove. What keeps me going is I love what I do. When I'm out there running I'm in such a good mood.”
Beyond athletics, Farah hopes that he can use his career to inspire young athletes, including one of his 10-year-old twin daughters who has been running cross country this winter for the Walton Athletics Club. “I got really emotional about it [watching her] because that's the journey I took as a youngster,” said Farah.
The world-famous London Marathon route has remained largely unchanged since the inaugural race in 1981 and encompasses many of the capital’s most mesmerising landmarks, old and new. The course is very flat with only one small rise. The triple start winds out of Greenwich Park and Blackheath Park, loops through Greenwich and across Tower Bridge. Circling Canary Wharf, the course runs along the Thames past the Tower of London through Trafalgar Square and onto The Mall where you will finish in front of Buckingham Palace. The course is one of the worlds fastest.
Here's what the official London Marathon website suggests...
If you want to follow your loved ones and try to get a glimpse of them as they pass, we suggest that you avoid very crowded areas, where it can be difficult to find a viewing spot, hard to move around and tough to get in and out.
Busy areas include Greenwich town centre and the Cutty Sark. While the ship is undoubtedly a beautiful backdrop for the race, the crowds that are attracted here can make spectating uncomfortable and transport in and around Greenwich becomes particularly busy. We strongly advise spectators to avoid this area.
Tower Bridge is always extremely busy, as is anywhere from mile 24 to the finish in The Mall. Obviously many of you will eventually end up in this area later on in the day as you head to the runner meet and greet area in Horse Guards Road.
Roads will likely be closed across south east and central London between 4am and 7pm, while buses in central London and Greenwich will probably terminate early, or be diverted, from 6.30am to 7.30pm. DLR runs a changed service until 5pm.
The elite races and the mass participation event on Sunday will be broadcast live on the BBC from 08:30am, as well as on the Red Button and iPlayer.
You can, of course, also follow full live coverage with us through our live blog.
2hr 1min 9sec is the men's fastest time, set by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge in Berlin in 2022.
Brigid Kosgei set the women's world record of 2hr 14min 4sec at the 2019 Chicago Marathon.
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