Chicago – Dennis Kimetto is the hottest of a trio of world class Kenyans that will headline the elite field for the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.
Kimetto set a course-record in capturing the Tokyo Marathon earlier this year and placed runner-up at the 2012 Berlin Marathon.
He will face strong challenges from countrymen Moses Mosop and Emmanuel Mutai in the first marathon in a major US city since the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April that killed three people.
Organizers have stepped up security for this year's race by having more than a thousand uniformed and undercover police guarding the course and by substantially increasing the number of bomb-sniffer dogs on downtown streets.
Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede will not be back to defend his Windy City title after he fashioned one of the best stretch runs in race history in 2012.
Kebede trailed the leader by 43 seconds, but took off in the final 4 1/2 miles to win by 29 seconds in a course record of two hours, four minutes and 38 seconds.
Kebede, who won the London Marathon earlier this year, is expected to take part in the New York Marathon in November.
Mosop, 28, is aiming for his second Chicago victory in the last three years.
He won in a course record time of 2:05:37 in 2011 but an injury prevented him from trying to defend the title the next year.
“Winning the 2011 Chicago Marathon was one of the proudest moments of my career,” said Mosop. “I lost my course record last year to Kebede and I was disappointed that I was not there to defend it.”
Japan's Yoshinori Oda, Ethiopia's Tilahun Regassa and Ayele Abshero and Kenyans Sammy Kitwara and Eliud Ngetich are also shooting for podium spots on Sunday.
Regassa won the Rotterdam Marathon earlier this year and Kitwara place fifth in Chicago last year.
The top American is Oregon runner Dathan Ritzehein who was the fastest non-African in Chicago last year when he finished ninth.
On the women's side, it will be hard to match the drama of last year's finish when Atsede Baysa edged Rita Jeptoo by just one second for the victory.
In Boston earlier this year, Jeptoo easily won the marathon to post her second win there in the last seven years.
Two-time Paris Marathon champ Baysa said she is looking forward to the challenge of defending her Chicago title.
“After finishing second at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, it was my goal to come back and win. Last year, I was thrilled to accomplish that dream,” said Baysa. “Rita pushed me to my limit, all the way to the last step.”
The women's field also includes Kenya's Jemima Sumgong, Japan's Yukiko Akaba, Russia's Maria Konovalova and the China's Zhang Jingxia. Sumgong won earlier this year in Rotterdam. – Sapa-AFP