The experienced performer
Emmanuel Mutai, Kenya’s London Marathon course record holder. Personal best: 2:03:52 (Chicago, 2013). London best: 2:04:40 (winner, 2011).
“This will be Emmanuel's seventh successive London Marathon, making him the most experienced of the contenders for this year's race. His record is one win, two seconds, two fourths and a seventh in 2012, which came after a bout of tyhoid.
“He showed his talent when setting the course record in 2011 by making a dynamic break in the middle of the race.
“I thought two or three years ago he might have peaked, but by finishing second in London last year and setting a PB to finish second in Chicago, he proved he’s running better than ever.”
The faster ever marathoner
Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest ever time for a marathon to win the 2011 Boston Marathon, on a course deemed illegal for record purposes. Personal best: 2:03:02 (Boston, 2011).
“Geoffrey is a great hill runner and it is interesting that he has run course record times at both Boston and New York, which are both famously hilly courses.
“Yet, he also proved he can run very well on flat courses, as his 2:04:15 in Berlin showed. He could have run even faster that day, but tweaked a hamstring in the latter stages.
“The only issue for him is he has yet to prove that he can run in London. He is a proven winner with seven wins from 11 marathons. His last defeat over the distance was back in 2010.”
Kenya’s Stanley Biwott held the Paris Marathon course record until last weekend, before Kenenisa Bekele sliced eight seconds off his time. Personal best: 2:05:12 (Paris, 2012). London best: 2:08:39 (eighth, 2013).
“With a personal best of 58:56 he is among the fastest half-marathoners in the field. He's a very aggressive racer and a big, strong runner.
“That attitude of no fear is a strong asset, although he has to prove himself as the very highest level.”
Feyisa Lilesa, Ethiopia's 2011 world marathon bronze medallist. Personal best: 2:04:32 (Chicago, 2012). London best: 2:07:46 (fourth, 2013).
“He is always in the hunt, but while the other guys mentioned so far are all proven winners, he is more of a podium filler.
“He is a tall, upright runner, who is very accomplished at covering surges – which is a great skill to have as a marathon runner.
“He finished fourth in the London Marathon last year, but did not finish in either Moscow or Frankfurt later that year.”
Marilson Gomes dos Santos is one of only two Brazilians ranked in the marathon’s top 100 all-time list. Personal best: 2:06:34 (London, 2011).
“He is now in his 11th year of marathon running. He races sparingly, but when he does compete you always know he is ready.
“A two-time former winner of the New York Marathon he also finished fourth in the 2011 London Marathon and was fifth in the London Olympic marathon.
“He knows how to finish races and when other guys are falling apart in the final few kilometres, Gomes dos Santos is one who can finish strongly.”
Ayele Abshero of Ethiopia ran the fastest ever debut marathon two years ago. Personal best: 2:04:23 (Dubai, 2012). London best: 2:06:57 (third, 2013).
“Pretty much an unknown having completed only three marathons, he crept up and surprised everybody last year by finishing third in London.
“He ran a quick time in his first ever marathon in Dubai and has since backed that time up. His biggest asset could be the fact that his opposition know very little about him.”
Ibrahim Jeilan, 2011 world 10,000m champion and marathon debutant.
“The surprise winner of the 2011 world 10,000m title is an interesting marathon debutant. Bigger than most track runners, his rugged-looks and style might be well suited to the road.
“His background in Japan will ensure a good knowledge of the marathon. The only question mark remains the achilles problems he has suffered from in the past.”
And another thing...
Ethiopia's legendary track and road champion Haile Gebrselassie is possibly the best pacemaker ever. Personal best: 2:03:59 (Berlin, 2008). London best: 2:06:35 (third, 2002).
“As a 27-times world record holder, few know the benefits of a good pacemaker quite like Ethiopian demigod Haile Gebrselassie. His role as pacemaker is crucial and could ensure we are set for a classic London Marathon.
“With a big downhill stretch for the first four miles or so, we often see some crazy times set for the first portion of the race before the athletes pull back to 20km. If Haile can master the pace, we could be set for a very special race.”