Eliud Kipchoge is the favourite for the ABN AMRO Rotterdam Marathon, but he will face stiff opposition at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday 13 April as he is one of four men in the race with PBs faster than 2:06.
Among them is fellow Kenyan Bernard Koech. Kipchoge’s PB of 2:04:05 makes him the sixth-fastest man ever, but training partner Koech is only 48 seconds slower, having clocked 2:04:53 on his debut in Dubai last year.
Although they have never raced against each other over 26.2 miles, Koech was twice defeated Kipchoge in the half marathon, finishing 15 seconds ahead of him in Lille two years ago and then winning by almost two minutes from Kipchoge in San Diego last year, clocking 58:41.
Despite some back problems, a few months later he finished third at the Amsterdam Marathon in 2:06:29.
Kenya's Albert Matebor and Ethiopia’s Girmay Birhanu are the other sub-2:06 runners in the field.
Matebor’s best of 2:05:25 was set three years ago when finishing third in Frankfurt. The 33-year-old is also a former winner of the Verona Marathon.
Despite having a best of 2:05:49, set at this year’s Dubai Marathon, Birhanu is yet to win a marathon and so will be keen to rectify that in Rotterdam. Last year he finished in the runner-up position at the Amsterdam, Rome and Prague Marathons.
Also in the field is Kenya's Bernard Kipyego. The 2009 world half-marathon silver medallist recently finished fifth at the RAK Half Marathon in 59:47. It was his fastest clocking since 2011, the year in which he set his marathon best of 2:06:29 when finishing third in Chicago.
Ethiopia's Abrh Milaw has already set a marathon PB this year, clocking 2:07:46 in Dubai in January. The 26-year-old will be looking to go even faster in Rotterdam.
Compatriot Deriba Robi has also been in PB form recently, winning in Marrakech at the end of January in 2:08:04. He too will hope for another strong showing, as will fellow Ethiopians Abebe Degefa and Alemayehu Abebe, both sub-2:10 runners at their best.
Sammy Kitwara, who has a PB of 2:05:16 from his third-place finish in Chicago last year, will be the pace maker as the elite men set out trying to improve the course record. The mark of 2:04:27 has stood since 2009 in a memorable race where Duncan Kibet finished a fraction ahead of James Kwambai.
Organisers for the IAAF