Kiri, Kiplagat face tough task in retaining Chicago Marathon crowns

Defending champions Abel Kirui and Florence Kiplagat face competitive tests in their Chicago Marathon title defence in October.

Kirui faces compatriot world marathon record holder Dennis Kimetto and half marathon world record-holder Zersenay Tadese

In a tactical race last year, Kirui held off Dickson Chumba to win by three seconds in 2:11:23. Kirui, a two-time world champion has a personal best of 2:05:04 and finished fourth at this year’s London Marathon in 2:07:45, his fastest time since winning the second of his world titles in 2011.

Kimetto returns to Chicago for the first time since setting a course record of 2:03:45 in 2013. Prior to that, he ran the fastest marathon debut in history in Berlin in 2012 (2:04:16) and in 2014, he became the first athlete in history to cover the marathon within 2:03, clocking a world record of 2:02:57 in Berlin.

Tadese, a six-time world champion on the roads and cross-country, has only finished three marathons. While his official personal best is 2:10:41, the 2004 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist ran 2:06:51 in the Breaking2 marathon so will be looking to replicate that kind of form in Chicago.

Kenya’s Stephen Sambu made his marathon debut in Chicago in 2016, finishing fifth in 2:13:35. With PBs of 26:54.61 for 10,000m and 1:00:41 for the half marathon, it would appear the 29-year-old is capable of significantly improving his marathon PB.

Japanese quartet Kohei Mastsumura, Yuki Takamiya, Chihiro Miyawaki and Ryoichi Matsuo add further strength to this year’s field. Matsumara is the fastest of the four, having set a PB of 2:08:09 at the 2014 Tokyo Marathon.

Kiplagat returns to chase her third title in a row and her fourth podium finish. The 2010 world half marathon champion has a marathon PB of 2:19:44 and held the half marathon world record until earlier this year. KIplagat faces three time gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba.

Dibaba started 2017 by becoming the third-fastest woman of all time when she finished second in London in 2:17:56. Dibaba is a three-time Olympic gold medallist, a five-time world champion on the track and a four-time winner of senior titles at the World Cross. She made her marathon debut in 2014 with a third-place finish in London in 2:20:35. More recently, she took the silver medal in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.

Valentine Kipketer returns to Chicago after finishing third last year in 2:23:41. The Kenyan finished sixth at this year’s Boston Marathon.

Australia’s Lisa Weightman heads to Chicago on the heels of her best career performance to date, a 2:25:15 fifth-place finish at this year’s London Marathon. She has represented Australia at three Olympics and numerous World Championships. She earned the bronze medal in the marathon at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Others in the field include Poland’s Karolina Nadolska, Mexican record-holder Madai Perez, Danish Olympian Jessica Draskau Petersson and Peru’s Rocio Cantara Rojas.

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