Kenenisa Bekele

LONDON, UK – Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele will battle against a world-class lineup for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 23 April, organisers announced on Monday.

Bekele, a veteran in running and track legend, having won three Olympic Games titles and holds two world records in the 5,000m and 10,000m, tops the list of contenders in the event, which is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.

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Bekele will enter the race with the fastest time at 2:03:03, which is also the second-fastest ever over the marathon.

The 34-year-old set the time en route to winning at the 2016 Berlin Marathon last September.

Bekele made his London Marathon debut last April and took third place behind Kenyan pair Eliud Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott and will be aiming to improve on that finish this time.

This year, the Ethiopian will have his hands full again as he will go up against three other men who have gone under 2:05:00, including Biwott (2:03:51) and Ethiopia’s Tesfaye Abera (2:04:24) and Feyisa Lilesa (2:04:52).

Unlike last year when he was not fully fit, Bekele is expected to be in good shape entering London, and he will certainly have his eyes on Kipchoge’s course record of 2:03:05.

If he’s in great shape, Bekele could even set his sights on the world record of 2:02:57, set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto in Berlin on Sep. 28, 2014.

“London is the greatest marathon in the world and I would love to win there,” Bekele said in a release.

“The field is always the best and victory means so much. After finishing third last year, I know what I need to do to win.”

Two-time defending champion Kipchoge will not return to defend his title this year.

Meanwhile, the experts also believe it’s well worth keeping a close eye on Kenya’s Bedan Karoki, who will be taking part in his first ever marathon.

The 26-year-old Karoki was a silver medallist at the 2016 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

He has a half-marathon personal best of 59:14, achieved in København on Sep. 13, 2015.

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