The Bank of America Chicago Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, will feature four of the world's fastest Marathon men and the top two finishers from last year's women's race at its 2013 event on 13 October, organisers announced on Thursday (5).
Kenya's Moses Mosop, Dennis Kimetto and Emmanuel Mutai, and Ethiopia's Ayele Abshero all rank among the top 11 marathon performers in history.
Mosop leads the way as the second-fastest marathon runner of all-time with a personal best of 2:03:06, followed by Kimetto, who is sixth on the list with 2:04:16, Abshero is seventh with 2:04:23 and Mutai 11th with 2:04:40.
In the women's race, Ethiopia's Atsede Baysa and Kenya's Rita Jeptoo will face one another for the first time since their dramatic sprint finish down Columbus Drive last year.
"It will be hard to top last year when the top three men all broke the previous course record and the women's race was decided by a single second, but this is the field that can do it," said executive race director Carey Pinkowski.
"These athletes are among the most exciting in the sport, not only with their fast times, but with their proven ability to win on the biggest stages in the world. We have two returning champions in Moses from 2011 and Atsede, with her memorable victory last year. They are the ones to beat, but they'll have their work cut out for them against deep competition."
The men will challenge the Chicago Marathon course record of 2:04:38 set last year by Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede.
Mosop aims to regain his crown
Mosop was the runaway winner at the 2011 Chicago Marathon, setting the then course record of 2:05:37.
He missed last year's race due to his selection for Kenya's London 2012 Olympic Games team and subsequent injury but he is back to full strength and looking to reclaim his title and course mark.
On his debut at the 2011 Boston Marathon, he was runner-up in what stands as the second-fastest performance in history and the world's fastest debut. "Winning the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was one of the proudest moments of my career and I look forward to returning to a course and a city that I enjoyed so much," said Mosop.
"I lost my course record last year to Kebede and I was disappointed that I was not there to defend it. I know the competition will be great once again this year and I'm excited to return to Chicago."
Kimetto arrives as arguably the hottest marathon runner in the world. He finished second on his debut at the 2012 BMW Berlin Marathon in 2:04:16, establishing a best for a debut on a record-eligible course. In February, he won the 2013 Tokyo Marathon in course record time.
Abshero, 22, burst on to the Marathon scene in his first attempt at the distance by winning the 2012 Dubai Marathon in a course record 2:04:23, becoming the fastest ever 21-year-old and the youngest athlete to break 2:05.
Meanwhile, Mutai is the most seasoned marathon runner of the group. He's the London Marathon course record-holder from his 2011 victory in 2:04:40. He's had four other top-five London finishes, was fifth in Chicago in 2008, second at the 2009 IAAF World Championships and runner-up at the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.
Far from a four-person race, the 2013 Chicago Marathon will feature additional contenders from around the world, including last year's third-place finisher Tilahun Regassa of Ethiopia. He recorded a personal best of 2:05:27 on his Chicago debut, and won the 2013 Rotterdam Marathon by more than a minute.
Tadese looking to finally fulfil his promise
Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese is a five-time World champion in the Half-marathon and the World record-holder at that distance with 58:23, but has so far failed to fulfil his abundant potential in his three Marathons to date.
Another Half-marathon specialist, Ethiopia's Atsedu Tsegaye, will run his debut Marathon in Chicago. His 58:47 at the 2012 Prague Half Marathon ranks him as the fourth-fastest performer of all-time.
History's fifth-fastest half marathoner is also in the field: Kenya's Sammy Kitwara. He was fourth on his Marathon debut last year in Chicago in 2:05:54.
As previously announced, US hopes rest with Dathan Ritzenhein, the third-fastest US marathon runner of all time with his 2:07:47 performance last year, and two-time Olympian Matt Tegenkamp, who will be making his highly anticipated debut.
The duel between Baysa and Jeptoo at the 2012 Chicago Marathon tied for the closest margin of victory in the history of the women's competition.
Both athletes sprinted stride-for-stride en route to personal best performances, with Baysa getting the hard-earned win in 2:22:03 to her rival’s 2:22:04. In 1999, Joyce Chepchumba edged fellow Kenyan Margaret Okayo by the same margin. In addition to her Chicago crown, Baysa was runner-up in 2010.
Baysa expects another battle with Jeptoo
"After finishing second at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, it was my goal to come back and win. Last year, I was thrilled to accomplish that dream," said Baysa. "Rita pushed me to my limit, all the way to the last step, and I'm sure it will be the same again this year. I am training very hard to be at my best in Chicago."
After coming within one second of victory in Chicago, Jeptoo found redemption six months later at the Boston Marathon when winning by 33 seconds. It was her second Boston title, which came an impressive seven years after her first in 2006.
Out to prevent a repeat one-two finish by Baysa and Jeptoo is a diverse international field, including Kenya's Jemima Sumgong, the 2013 Rotterdam Marathon champion in a personal best of 2:23:27.
Another returner is Russia's Maria Konovalova, the third-place finisher from 2010 with a best of 2:23:50.
Sixth last year, Japan's Yukiko Akaba brings a strong resume to Chicago, which includes a 2:24:09 personal best, a victory at the 2011 Osaka Marathon, and a third place in London in April.
A pair of up-and-coming Ethiopians will also arrive after breakthrough performances earlier this year. Abebech Afework was second in Rotterdam in 2:23:59 and Ehitu Kiros Reda was second in Dubai in 2:23:38.
Other international entrants include 2013 LA Marathon champion and Belarusian record-holder Aliaksandra Duliba and the Chinese pair of Yue Chao and Zhang Jingxia.
Organisers for the IAAF