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LONDON (Reuters) - Fierce rivalries, rather than tumbling times, are key to maintaining the appeal of elite marathons, defending London champion Wilson Kipsang said of his showdown with world record holder Dennis Kimetto on Sunday.
Dubbed the ‘clash of the champions’ by race organizers, Kimetto, who clocked a world best two hours, two minutes, 57 seconds in September's Berlin Marathon, will make his London debut while fellow Kenyan Kipsang is seeking a third title after winning in 2012 and 2014.
A stellar London lineup is dominated by Kenyans, including Emmanuel Mutai, the 2011 London winner who ran the second-quickest time ever (2:03.13) when finishing runner-up to Kimetto in Berlin, and Stanley Biwott, another sub-2:05 runner, who finished second to Kipsang last year.
With five of the all-time top-10 and eight sub-2:05 men in the field the race looks unlikely to become a solo time trial often seen at lucrative big-city marathons around the world.
“I think sometimes it is more interesting when guys like this are racing together,” Kipsang told a news conference on Thursday held in a hotel at Tower Bridge, the iconic halfway mark of the race.
“When I get to a race and win, and then Dennis goes to another race and wins --it’s not so interesting for the sport.
“But when we are together people can really see the potential of the athletes and there is high potential of many guys finishing close to the line. If the guys are in top shape there is a high chances of a fast run and a fast time.”
Kimetto, who broke Kipsang's 2013 world record by 26 seconds, averaged a scarcely credible four minutes 41 seconds per mile in Berlin to become the first man to run under two hours three minutes.
Another world record on Sunday is unlikely, however, as the twists and turns of London’s streets make for tougher going compared to the flat, wide-roads of Berlin.
“My main aim on Sunday is not really the world record but retaining the title,” added Kipsang, 33, who can become the fourth man to win the London Marathon three times.
“I will try to make sure I analyze my competitors and come up with a race plan. We have new guys to last year so I need a different approach."
Reporting by Michael Hann