Kenyan marathon runner Emmanuel Mutai poses in front of Tower Bridge during a photo call for last year’s London Marathon winners, in central London, April 17, 2012. Mutai will defend his London marathon title on Sunday. (REUTERS/Andrew Winning)

By Alison Wildey

LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) – Champion Emmanuel Mutai does not expect a tactical race at this year’s London Marathon even though he is among six Kenyans hoping to impress the national selectors ahead of the Olympics.

Mutai heads a top-class field for Sunday’s race which includes his compatriots world champion Abel Kirui, three-times London winner Martin Lel and world record holder Patrick Makau.

London is the final chance to win a place on the Kenyan Olympic marathon team with the selectors announcing their final three at the end of the month.

“You cannot say we’ll be watching each other. You have to run your own race because you use your own knowledge to say ‘how am I going to do the race’, Mutai told Reuters on Wednesday.

Mutai, who set a course record of two hours four minutes and 40 seconds for victory last year and has never finished lower than fourth in London, believes his previous experience of the race could be a help.

“For me it’s an advantage but what matters is how the body will respond on that day,” said the 27-year-old, who suffered a bout of typhoid last month and missed some training.

“I cannot say I want to run this time… the most important thing is that when the race starts and you’ve reached halfway you can feel then what time you might do.”

Abel Kirui, who retained his world title in Daegu last year, was confident his compatriots would all be concentrating on their own race rather than each other.

“They’ll be some nervousness and tension but then I hope everybody can run to his limits,” said the 29-year-old.

“Everybody shall run his own race and at the end we shall run the best time and we shall run without any fear (of the others).

“This is almost the same as the Olympics because these are the representatives of the world… and the top class of athletes,” added Kirui, whose first full marathon was as a pacemaker for Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin in 2006.

Kirui was reluctant to predict a winner, with an intake of breath and a big smile he said: “It’s unpredictable. Only God knows.”

Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede is the only non-Kenyan to have won the men’s title in the last eight years and the 2010 winner leads this year’s challenge to them.