The 2013 London Marathon is on as scheduled for Sunday, and it will be boast was has been called "the best elite men's marathon field ever assembled." Eleven of the runners have turned in a sub-2:06 marathon time, seven have gone sub-2:05 and a pair -- Patrick Makau and Wilson Kipsang -- have run a marathon in under 2:04.
Makau's personal best, 2:03:38, run in Berlin in 2011, is the world record -- and that may fall on Sunday.
The fastest men ever are here, including Patrick Makau and Wilson Kipsang, the two quickest of them all. There are 10 who have run below two hours, six minutes.
The defending champion, the course record holder and the Olympic champion are all here, uniformly small, sinewy, lithe men and all of them, apart from Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic winner, from Kenya or Ethiopia.
"Patrick Makau is saying to people the world record is going to go here," said Dave Bedford, who stepped aside as race director last year. "There is enough talk among the Kenyans in particular to say, 'Let's have a go at this, let's bring it down'."
Among the 10 runners who have tuned in a sub-2:06 marathon, five are from Kenya, and it's expected they'll work together Sunday morning to really push the pace. Additionally, two-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah will be there, running just the first half of the marathon as an invited guest.
Here's a look at the six fastest men (all under 2:05) entering Sunday's London Marathon, and some of their credentials:
- Wilson Kipsang, Kenya (2:03:42) - Defending champion in London, won 2013 NYC Half Marathon (1:01:02) and winner of 2010 and 2011 Frankfurt Marathons. Finished third in Olympic Marathon in 2012.
- Patrick Makau, Kenya (2:03:38) - Marathon world-record holder, winner of 2012 Frankfurt Marathon and Berlin Marathon in both 2010 and 2011
- Geoffrey Mutai, Kenya (2:04:15) - Winner of 2011 Boston Marathon (ran a 2:03:02, but course is not officially recognized for records) and 2011 NYC Marathon. Also has won Berlin in 2010 and 2012.
- Ayele Abshero, Ethiopia (2:04:23) - Time of 2:04:23 in 2012 Dubai Marathon was fastest-ever marathon debut
- Tsegaye Kebede, Ethiopia (2:04:38) - Winner of 2012 Chicago Marathon (2:04:38) and 2010 London Marathon. He finished third in London last year and in New York in 2011. Bronze medal winner in 2008 Olympics.
- Emmanuel Mutai, Kenya (2:04:40) - Winner of 2011 London Marathon and runner-up in New York in both 2011 and 2010.
London is the first race since the Boston Marathon and the bombings, and while it's a bigger race, Wilson Kipsang says athletes will be able to "run freely":
"We would like to send our condolences to those people who lost their loved ones in Boston," the Kenyan said. "We are preparing to compete but we are sorry because it was an athletics event and a very big race. I think in terms of security we are going to run freely. Something of that kind rarely happens. We are very sorry for what happened but there is security in place."
World-record holder Makau added, "Security will be tight and if you are thinking that something might happen then you can't concentrate."
The elite men start the 2013 London Marathon at 5 a.m. ET.