By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Champion Wilson Kipsang of Kenya is excited, focused and ready for his title defence at the Tokyo Marathon on Feb 25.
Kipsang, who is targeting to set a new world record on his second attempt at the Japanese premier marathon competition, has intensified his training in Kericho, running at high altitude and is hopeful that hard work will bear fruits.
With a two hours, three minutes and 58 seconds course record to defend, Kipsang is also dreaming of attempting to break the world record, knowing his rivals will be on a similar mission in April at the London Marathon.
"I surprised everyone during the final steps and almost won the New York marathon in Nov. last year. Well, this year I will just go ahead and do it in Tokyo," Kipsang said on Tuesday from Kericho.
Last year, Kipsang missed out on the world record (2:02:57 set by compatriot Dennis Kimetto in 2014 in Berlin) but still ran the fastest time ever on Japanese soil to win in 2:03:58.
Now the Kenyan, 36, will make a second attempt to break his compatriot Dennis Kimetto's world record.
"With the good weather and good competitions the course in Tokyo is capable of producing the world record and I will try and run fast and let the rest fall in place," he added.
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.
Tokyo race director Tadaaki Hayano is backing up Kipsang to excel and break the world record.
"I expect a very exciting race this year. The assembled field is good enough to target the world record. Furthermore Kipsang has experience running on the Tokyo Marathon course. Kipsang is targeting faster time than last year, perhaps a world record," Hayano said.
After his win in Tokyo last year, Kipsang dropped out of Berlin Marathon in Sept, but recovered to finish second at the New York Marathon in Nov.
Kipsang's main competition is Tesfaye Abera of Ethiopia and Feyisa Lilesa, the 2016 Olympic marathon silver medalist. Then there is also Kenyan Dickson Chumba, who stayed with Kipsang until 35km last year.
In the women's race, Helah Kiprop, Purity Rionoripo will face stiff challenge from Ethiopians Shure Demise, Ruti Aga and Birhane Dibaba while Anna Hahner (Germany) and Amy Cragg (USA) are also in the line-up.
Former World 5,000m champion Meseret Defar will also be launching her marathon career after retiring from the track.