Tokyo previews – Men’s Marathon

The Men’s Marathon takes place on the island of Hokkaido to the north of Japan, in the city of Sapporo. Eliud Kipchoge will aim to defend his Olympic title but faces an Ethiopian assault as well as a couple of potential challengers in his own camp. Here’s our men’s marathon preview.


Saturday 7 August 23:00 UK Time (Final)

Fastest men’s marathon times since 2019

2021 RankingsTime AthleteCountry
102:01:41Kenenisa BekeleEthiopia
202:02:37Eliud KipchogeKenya
302:02:48Birhanu LegeseEthiopia
402:02:55Mosinet GeremewEthiopia
502:02:57Titus EkiruKenya
602:03:00Evans ChebetKenya
702:03:04Lawrence CheronoKenya
802:03:16Mule WasihunEthiopia
902:03:30Amos KiprutoKenya
1002:03:34Getaneh MollaEthiopia

British interest

Callum Hawkins has finished fourth at the last two world champs and was ninth in Rio. Though his 2.08.14 best would not seem to put him in the mix he has proven himself in championship racing and has a genuine chance of a medal.

Chris Thompson (2.10.52) won the British trials in heart-warming fashion and the 40-year-old will hope for an Olympic swansong. If he can keep himself together, he may surprise many with his placing and a top ten is not off the cards.

Ben Connor was second in the trials and has run 2.11.20. Much will depend on his ability to deal with the still hot and humid conditions.

The favourites

The Olympics launches the unenviable task of Kenya and Ethiopia picking only three athletes each, despite their dominant position in world marathon running.

The Ethiopians

The Ethiopian team is Lelisa Desisa who has won three World marathon majors and is the reigning World Champion from Doha. He has a 2.04.45 best but is largely picked due to his proven ability to win races. His last race was a tenth place finish in Valencia in December 2020.

Shura Kitata was the man to dethrone Eliud Kipchoge at the London Marathon last year and won the Ethiopian trials over 35k with an impressive sprint finish. He has a 2.04.49 best from his second place to Kipchoge in London 2018 but will be gunning for gold.

Sisay Lemma ran 2.03.36 in Berlin in 2019. Though he is the fastest in the Ethiopian team on paper you would suggest he is their least favourite to win gold just due to his relative performances at other races.

The Kenyans

Eliud Kipchoge won 2016 Rio gold and has won six of his seven subsequent official marathons. In that time he has also become the first man to break the 2 hour barrier, albeit unofficial in contrived conditions. His only blemish is an eighth in London last year. He ran 2.04.30 in April to win in Enschede.

Lawrence Cherono has always threatened to breakthrough and was second in Valencia in 2.03.04 in December. The Boston champ from 2019 was second only to Evans Chebet who is not in Tokyo and could provide a real challenge.

The final Kenyan in the squad, Amos Kipruto was third in Doha. Interestingly he was only 18th in his last visit to Japan in the Tokyo marathon. He was fourth in Valencia in 2.03.30.

Ones to watch

Suguru Osako (2.05.59) will be a home favourite and has been third in both Chicago and Boston. Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic Champion from 2012 is in the Ugandan team but he is unlikely to figure this time around. That said the same could be said in 2012 and he will be alongside Filex Chemongesi (2.05.12 best) and Fred Musobo (2.06.56. best).

Our medal predictions

  1. Eliud Kipchoge
  2. Shura Kitata
  3. Lawrence Cherono

Enjoy our men’s marathon Olympic preview? See all the other events below.

Featured image “Eliud Kipchoge” by MichaelGubi is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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