London Marathon: Kimetto and Keitany can claim the honours for Kenya

Well into her comeback, Mary Keitany will take all the beating in Sunday's London Marathon
Well into her comeback, Mary Keitany will take all the beating in Sunday's London Marathon

He's not happy about having to put up with yet more coverage of Paula Radcliffe, but Jack Houghton is nonetheless looking forward to London Marathon weekend, where he thinks Kenya will win both the men's and women's races.

"Kimetto has racked up three consecutive marathon wins in Tokyo, Chicago and Berlin, the last of which was a world record 2.02.57..."

Men's Race - 10.10am (BST), Sunday (Live on BBC)

It's unsurprising that two-time winner Wilson Kipsang, the course record holder and defending champion, is the 3.02/1 favourite to win another Marathon Major when he takes to the streets of London this weekend.

However, three things put me off supporting the former world-record holder. First, the agents who represent him internationally have recently been suspended by Athletics Kenya, and Kipsang's comments about the issue have meant that he again finds himself at odds with his national sporting body. Coming into such a competitive race, this could well affect his mindset.

Second, his warm-up half-marathon, a win in Granollers in February, was a pedestrian 62 minutes. It's important not to read too much into preparatory races, but at more than a minute slower than he was on the same course last year, there is a suggestion his training is behind where he might want it to be.

Third, this is an incredibly competitive field.

Dennis Kimetto, despite being 31, only has a record of competition going back to 2011. A farmer before then, Kimetto was discovered by fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai and has subsequently gone on to post the fastest ever marathon debut - in 2012 in Berlin - before racking up three consecutive marathon wins in Tokyo, Chicago and Berlin, the last of which was a world record 2.02.57, bettering Kipsang's previous mark by over 30 seconds, which had been set on the same course the previous year. At around 3.7511/4, Kimetto looks a juicy price.

Eliud Kipchoge has made a successful transition from the track in the last few years and continues to improve, but Kipsang has beaten him previously in Chicago, and although Kipchoge posted a lightning-quick 2.04.11 to win last year's Chicago marathon, that was slower than Kimetto had managed the year previously. Kipchoge, at around 4.57/2, would not be a surprise winner, but he has to be viewed as the rightful third-favourite when matched against the top two.

Elsewhere in the field, a case can be made for Emmanuel Mutai (10.09/1) and Geoffrey Mutai (11.010/1). However, both of these athletes would have to reverse recent form with the market leaders and are likely to place at best. Another worth a mention is Tsegaye Mekonnen (12.011/1). At just 18, he stunned the athletics' world by winning the Dubai Marathon on his senior debut at the distance in 2.04.31 and ran an impressive 61-minute warm-up half-marathon in February. If there is a surprise result, Mekonnen will likely supply it.

On balance, though, Kimetto is the smart bet.

Women's Race - 9.20am (BST), Sunday (Live on BBC)

One drawback of this weekend's coverage is that we will have to endure endless nostalgia about the retirement (finally) of Paula Radcliffe, the athlete who received lottery funding for years, before moving to Monaco. She now occasionally pops up as a pundit for the state-funded BBC, who will no doubt provide her with lots of free airtime to build her profile further this weekend. In fact, looking at the schedule, I note a special programme dedicated to just that on Saturday. Thankfully, she will not win, and we will not have to hear from her again. If only wishing made it so.

The much less parochial - and real - story of this year's women's race is whether the imperious Mary Keitany can continue her successful return to running after the birth of her two children. She won in dogged fashion in New York in November, and posted a very quick 65-minute half-marathon in February, which was only a few seconds below her personal best at the distance set before motherhood.

Provided her final preparations have gone smoothly, she looks value at around 3.412/5 to re-establish herself as the best women's marathon runner in the world.

Florence Kiplagat (3.55/2), Edna Kiplagat (5.59/2) and Priscah Jeptoo (5.59/2) all have valid claims, but they would require Keitany to underperform to take victory.

Recommended Bets
Back Dennis Kimetto at 3.7511/4
Back Mary Keitany at 3.412/5

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