On paper the two favourites both hail from Ethiopia, with Derissa Chimsa looking like the man who will give his compatriot and defending champion Sahle Warga a run for his money.
The pair know each other well as they are training partners in Addis Ababa.
The 26-year-old Chimsa has a best of 2:05:42, a time he recorded at the 2012 Dubai Marathon. Last year, he also won the 2012 Prague Marathon in 2:06:25 and dipped under 2:07 a third time last autumn when finishing second at the Frankfurt Marathon.
Apparently, he has one thing on his mind, “Of course I know the Toronto course record (of 2:07:58, set in 2011 by Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara),” Chimsa says. “I’ll follow the pacemakers.”
Warga became the first Ethiopian man to win in 13 editions of the Toronto a year ago, recording 2:10:36 in less than ideal conditions when temperatures reached 18 degrees Celsius.
He then went on to run a personal best of 2:08:39 in Xiamen, China, this past January. It remains to be seen how much of his Toronto experience he has passed on to his compatriot.
“I need to defend and to run under the course record,” said Warga. “Always it’s difficult to say I can do this or that in a Marathon but I hope I can run under 2:08.”
Another Ethiopian, Habtamu Assefa, made his debut in 2:08:28 at this year’s Dubai Marathon and could be among the handful or so runners capable of providing an upset should the two favourites falter.
Sugut also aiming to cash in
Henry Sugut will lead the Kenyan contingent.
A three-time winner of the Vienna Marathon, Sugut smashed the course record in the Austrian capital a year ago with 2:06:58, which raised plenty of eyebrows because the record he broke had belonged to two-time World champion and London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist, Kenya’s Abel Kirui.
Another Kenyan to look out for is Solomon Kiptoo, a 2:08:34 man.
Morocco’s Abderrahime Bouramdane has a best of 2:07:33 from the 2010 London Marathon as well as finishing fourth at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu and the man from Fez always seems to be in the thick of the battle. Into the bargain, he is no novice on the Toronto course and was second in 2006.
Race director Alan Brookes has enlisted the aid of three very talented pacemakers including Kenya’s Laban Moiben, winner of the 2012 Ottawa Marathon in 2:09:13.
They have been given the task of taking the leaders through 30km at course record pace and there is a USD$35,000 bonus on offer if the winning time is quicker.
The women’s course record of 2:22:43, held jointly by 2010 and 2011 winners Sharon Cherop and Ethiopia’s Koren Jelela, might also be under threat from Kenya’s Filomena Cheyech, the winner of this year’s Vienna Marathon in a personal best of 2:24:34.
Her personal best in the Austrian capital was a huge breakthrough, 10 minutes faster than any of her previous three Marathons, and suggests she has now got to grips with the demands of running a fast Marathon.
The Ethiopian presence in the women's race will, once again, be strong.
Meskerem Assefa is a two-time Olympian for her country at 1500m and made an enormous leap when she competed in the Houston Marathon earlier this year. The 28- year-old recorded 2:25:17 for third place.
Dinknesh Mekash ran 2:25:09 in April’s Paris Marathon, lowering her personal best by almost four minutes.
Brookes has always insisted on also bringing the top Canadian athletes to the event and provides pacemakers specifically for their target pace. This year is no exception.
Krista DuChene and Lanni Marchant, who both represented Canada at the 2013 IAAF World Championships will try to run 5:40 miles the whole way and get under the 28-year-old Canadian record of 2:28:36 and there is a USD$28,000 bonus for a new Canadian women’s record.
The Canadian men include two-time Olympian, Eric Gillis, whose personal best of 2:11:28 came on this course two years ago.
Scotiabank has put up a special Canadian record bonus of USD$38,000 - $1000 for each year Jerome Drayton’s time of 2:10:09 has stood - and Gillis has hinted he would like to have a go.