Sunday’s London Marathon may mark the beginning of one track legend’s marathon career. It will likely be the end for another.
Sifan Hassan, a 30-year-old, Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman, makes her 26.2-mile debut, less than two years after winning Olympic 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze in an unprecedented track triple.
Hassan said in announcing her marathon entry in February that she plans to return to the track after London, but how Sunday goes will play into whether she enters a fall marathon or even the Olympic marathon in 2024.
She has no time goal Sunday, but had the courage Friday to tell a press conference that she is scared of the distance, doesn’t know whether she will finish the race and has been nervous for the last month.
“Sometimes I wake up like, why the hell [did] I decide to run a marathon?” said Hassan, who has kept her track training during the build-up. “I am actually in better shape for 5000m, 10,000m right now. I don’t know marathon. Maybe I’m also in good shape for that.”
Hassan faces two road-racing giants on Sunday: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei, who in 2019 lowered the marathon world record to 2:14:04, and Peres Jepchirchir, who in a nine-month span in 2021 and 2022 became the only person to win the Olympic, Boston and New York City Marathons in a career.
Neither Kosgei nor Jepchirchir ran a fall 2022 marathon due to injury. so London is the first 26.2-mile race for both in more than a year.
The field also includes two Ethiopian track greats: Almaz Ayana, the 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion, and Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world record holder (3:50.07). Ayana, 31, and Dibaba, 32, went one-two in October’s Amsterdam Marathon in their 26.2-mile debuts.
The two fastest American women in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato, signed up for London over the winter but withdrew last month with minor injuries.
Sunday’s men’s field doesn’t have quite the star power as the women’s race, nor of last Monday’s Boston Marathon, where Eliud Kipchoge placed sixth in his first outing since lowering his world record to 2:01:09 last September.
London does have the next four fastest men in history — headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, who is 40 years old and last broke 2:05 in 2019, when he ran a personal-best 2:01:41 to win Berlin.
A bigger favorite is Kelvin Kiptum, a 23-year-old Kenyan who won the Valencia Marathon in December in 2:01:53 to become the third-fastest man in history.
Kiptum and other ascending runners may be a threat to the 38-year-old Kipchoge’s chances of making Kenya’s three-man Olympic marathon team, which is expected to be named after spring 2024 marathons.
One man who has said he will not compete at the Paris Games is 40-year-old Brit Mo Farah, who swept the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m in 2012 and 2016. After a failed Tokyo Olympic bid, Farah has repeatedly hinted at retirement due to his body breaking down.
He took another step in Thursday’s press conference, saying that London will be his last marathon. Farah previously announced the end of his track career, then withdrew before last October’s London Marathon four days before the race with a right hip injury.
Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, including the three fastest times in history for a Brit (2:05:11, 2:05:39, 2:06:21). But he hasn’t run a marathon since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).
“As long as I stay injury-free and can do the work, then I will continue, but my body is not allowing me,” he said. “After the race, there might be a bit of tears.”
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nbcolympictalk