Athletics-Brasher predicts elite women's London Marathon race to be better than Paris Olympics

FILE PHOTO: Athletics - London Marathon - London, Britain - April 23, 2023 General view as participants run past the Old Royal Naval College during the London Marathon REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

LONDON (Reuters) - London Marathon event director Hugh Brasher is predicting a more competitive women's race on Sunday than the 2024 Paris Olympic marathon later this year, and believes the women's-only world record may fall.

The world's fastest female marathoner Tigst Assefa headlines an elite field that features seven women who have run under two hours, 17 minutes and 30 seconds, including three of the top four fastest women ever.

"No race in the history of our sport has ever had that," Brasher told reporters on Wednesday. "So I have no idea who's going to win but I think it's going to be an incredibly competitive event.

"This will be a harder marathon to win than the Olympic Marathon in Paris, I'm pretty goddamn certain of that."

Assefa clocked 2:11.53 at the Berlin Marathon in September, setting the world record for women in a race alongside male runners, and is aiming to break Mary Keitany's mark of 2:17:01 set in a women-only race at the 2017 London Marathon.

The race has a lot to live up to after Sifan Hassan struggled in the early going last year, even stopping twice to massage her leg, before racing to victory in her debut at the 26.2-mile distance.

"It was the most spectacular race last year, I don't think anyone had seen the eventual winner stopping mid-race and massaging their hamstring in a major race before," Brasher said.

New York City Marathon champion Tamirat Tola, plus Alexander Mutiso Munyao, Dawit Wolde and Kinde Atanaw headline a men's race that is wide open in the absence of last year's winner and world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum.

There will be 30 seconds of applause before the start of the men's race to celebrate Kiptum, who died in a traffic accident on Feb. 12, at the age of 24.

Brasher said he is "99% certain" the 44th running of the London race will be the biggest ever, with more than 50,000 finishers expected.

The event will make history as the first marathon to award equal prize money to able-bodied athletes and wheelchair racers, with a total prize pot of $308,000 each, and the four winners in the elite races receiving $55,000 each.

The weather forecast favours fast times, Brasher added, with temperatures expected to hover between 12-14C, although the winds along the Thames can be a factor.

Extreme runner Russ Cook will race on Sunday only two weeks after he became the first person to run the entire length of Africa. The 27-year-old Briton, who calls himself the "Hardest Geezer," took 352 days to complete African odyssey of more than 16,000 kilometres.

British ultra-runner Jasmin Paris, who last month became the first woman in history to complete the infamous 100-mile Barkley Marathons, will be the starter for the elite women's race on Sunday.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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