NAIROBI, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Defending Champion Wilson Kipsang of Kenya aims to run faster and break the world record on his returns to the Tokyo marathon on Feb. 25.
In the women's race, Helah Kiprop and Purity Rionoripo will face stiff challenges from Ethiopians Shure Demise, Ruti Aga and Birhane Dibaba while Anna Hahner (Germany) and Amy Cragg (USA) are also in the lineup.
Former world 5,000m champion Meseret Defar will also be launching her marathon career after retiring from the track.
Last year, Kipsang missed out on the world record (2:02:57) but still ran the fastest time ever on Japanese soil to win the Tokyo Marathon in two hours, three minutes and 58 seconds. Now the Kenyan, 36, will make a second attempt to break his compatriot Dennis Kimetto's world record.
Kipsang is one of the most accomplished marathon runners from Kenya and holds a best time of 2:03:13, which he attained in 2016 in Berlin.
"My focus is on Tokyo race. I am out on a mission and today I had the opportunity to train with Adidas runners in Japan and shared few tips on how to run faster," said Kipsang, who is in Tokyo to promote the race.
After his win in Tokyo last year, Kipsang dropped out of the Berlin marathon, but recovered to finish second at the New York marathon.
Tokyo marathon Race Director Tadaaki Hayano, said he has assembled a top class elite field.
"The assembled field is good enough to target the world record of 2:02:57 as well as the Japanese national record of 2:06:16," said Hayano.
Tokyo's new flat and fast course was introduced from last year when the new all-comers records were set for both men and women.
Kipsang will be running the Tokyo Marathon for the second year in a row. Last year, he passed half way point in 1:01:22 and was at the world record pace until 30km.
Kipsang's main competition is Tesfaye Abera from Ethiopia whose best time is 2:04:24.
There is also Feyisa Lilesa, the Olympic marathon silver medalist and Dickson Chumba (Kenya), who stayed with Kipsang until 35km last year.
Japanese runners will be targeting to win and challenge the 2:07:19 time recorded by Suguru Osako in Fukuoka Marathon.
Kenya's Helah Kiprop will be the lead candidate in the women's race. Last year Japanese all-comers record of 2:19:47 was set and this year's race features three 2:20 runners led by Ruti Aga of Ethiopia with Berhane Dibaba starting the Tokyo marathon for the fifth straight years.
Kenya's Sarah Chepchirchir set a new women's mark in Tokyo last year when she won in 2:19.47, the 32-year-old leading home Ethiopians Birhane Dibaba (2:21.19) and Amane Gobena (2:23.09).