Khannouchi can conquer classy field

One of the attractions at the Flora London Marathon Exhibition this year is a cut-out of the defending champion, Abdelkader El Mouaziz, crossing the line. As in the best fairground traditions, there is a hole where the face should be, enabling any interested party to picture themselves as a champion.

If times achieved told the whole story, the cut-out on display at next year's Exhibition should be of Khalid Khannouchi, El Mouaziz's fellow Moroccan, who became the first man to beat 2hr 6min for the distance last October when he won at Chicago.

Khannouchi's performances in his only three marathons to date - he has finished first, second then first in the Windy City - have established him as a superstar within the event.

But as he toes the line for the 20th London Marathon tomorrow morning the main question about his preparation will relate to his mind rather than his body. How much will Khannouchi have been affected by his protracted, and acrimonious quest to adopt US citizenship in time to run at the Sydney Olympics? The bookies do not seem overly concerned - they have made the 28-year-old 6-5 favourite despite the presence of a field which, apart from the defending champion, includes the double winner Antonio Pinto, the European champion Stefano Baldini, the Kenyans William Kiplagat and Japhet Kosgei, and three hugely talented South Africans in Gert Thys, fourth on the all-time list, the Olympic champion Josiah Thugwane and Hendrick Ramaala, who makes his debut after twice finishing silver medallist in the World Half Marathon championship.

If Khannouchi does operate at less than peak efficiency, however, it may well be El Mouaziz who finds him out. After narrowly failing to run away from the field in 1998, the Moroccan succeeded last year and he has a lean and hungry look as he seeks to hang on to his title. And, unlike a number of his rivals, he is already free of worry over Olympic selection having secured his place already.

Like El Mouaziz, who is 7-1 to win, the defending women's champion Joyce Chepchumba also finds herself down the betting, thanks to the presence of her friend and housemate, Tegla Loroupe, evens favourite in what will be her first London race.

On the same day Chepchumba collected a world record bonus for a women-only race from the London organisers, Loroupe ran two minutes faster in the mixed race in Rotterdam. Now the two Kenyans, who train together for half the year in Germany, will face each other for the first time in a marathon, and Chepchumba's record of 2:23.22 seems bound to be broken.

There will be no suggestion of a two-horse race, however, given the presence of Mexico's runner-up of last year, Adriana Fernandez, Romania's world bronze medallist Lidia Simon - who beat Loroupe in Osaka last year - and the debutant Fernanda Ribeiro, the 1996 Olympic 10,000m champion who is seeking to emulate the marathon feats of her fellow Portuguese runners, Rosa Mota and Manuela Machado.

Ribeiro's predecessor as Olympic 10,000m champion, Derartu Tulu, also has the potential to make an impact on the race in what will be her third marathon, but the first for which she has trained intensively.

Following injuries to Liz McColgan and Jon Brown, and the sadly premature retirement of Richard Nerurkar, no Briton looks capable of making an impact on the leading places in either race. But there will be a fascinating race-within-a-race between three debutants, Keith Cullen, Glyn Tromans and Mark Steinle, as they seek to secure an Olympic place by finishing as top Briton inside the qualifying time of 2hr 14min.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Packaging Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for two indivi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas