By Mike Rowbottom at The Tower Hotel in London

mofarahApril 17 - Mo Farah's intention of running to the halfway point in the 2013 Virgin London Marathon as preparation for his full marathon debut there in 2014, criticised in some quarters, was fully supported here today by five runners who will head what is billed as "the greatest men's marathon field ever assembled" when the race gets underway on Sunday (April 21).

Farah's fellow Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, surprise winner of the London 2012 marathon for Uganda, declared: "It is going to be a fantastic race.

"With Farah in the field we will have more fans cheering us and giving us support. It is also going to be a good step for him."

Geoffrey Mutai, who has completed the distance in 2 hours 3min 02sec - albeit that the time is not an official record as the Boston course on which it was recorded does not conform to the required criteria - commented: "I think it will be good for us as well as Farah.

"I think we will have a good run until the halfway mark.

Mutai's Kenyan colleague Wilson Kipsang, whose personal best of 2:03:42 is only four seconds off the official world record of 2:03.38 set by Patrick Makau - also running in London - added: " I think it will be a good thing for both Farah and us."

kipsanglondon2012Wilson Kipsang, winner of the Virgin 2012 London Marathon, will be glad to be running half the way with Mo Farah

Among those who have questioned Farah's approach is his fellow Briton Paula Radcliffe, who set the women's world record of 2:15:25 at London in 2003.

Radcliffe called the decision "strange", adding that Farah was at risk of "showing his hand" to potential rivals.

Introducing the five runners - who also included Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede, the 2010 London winner who was third in the capital last year - new race director Hugh Brasher, who was jointly in charge with the long-time incumbent Dave Bedford last year, announced:

"We very proudly call this the greatest men's marathon field ever assembled.

"We feel we are running the London 2012 and Paralympics together in one amazing event. 

"We have 15 Olympic and Paralympic medallists present in a field put together by Dave."

Asked what difference such a concentration of talent might make in the men's race, Kipsang, who won a bronze medal at the London 2012 marathon, responded: "If you run in a good field it can make you run a good time.

"The difference is always very slight, but if you are alone, you would not have that time."

Steven Kiprotich London Marathon April 17 2013Uganda's Olympic champion Steven Kiprotich claims he is looking forward to facing Mo Farah in the London Marathon, even though the Briton is only planning to run the first half of the race

The man who finished two places ahead of Kipsang at London 2012, Kiprotich, denied that he felt any extra pressure coming into this race as Olympic champion, and did not rule out taking three or four minutes off his current best of 2:07:20, which will quite likely be the kind of time required to win.

Race officials confirmed that the schedule target would be 61:45 to 20 miles - which would translate to a time of 2:03:30, inside the official world record.

"I don't feel under any pressure as Olympic champion," the Ugandan said.

"If I can run a strong competition, I think everything is possible."

The three Kenyans and Kiprotich - who has been training in Kenya - were asked how often they had undergone doping tests on home soil in the last year.

Kipsang said four times, Kiprotich two, Mutai once.

Makau, the world record holder, said random testers from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had come six times, adding with a smile: "They come all the time.

"All of them are familiar to my family."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
February 2013: Farah set to run first half of 2013 London Marathon
October 2012: Farah may seek 10,000 metre/marathon double at Rio 2016, says coach
October 2012: Farah set to make marathon debut at London in 2014