Defending champion Sharon Lokedi, Boston Marathon champion Hellen Obiri and former world record-holder Brigid Koskei will compete in a spectacular women's field set for Sunday's 52nd New York City Marathon.
More than 50,000 runners are expected over the 26.2-mile showdown winding through the New York streets but the women's contenders might just steal the show.
Lokedi won her marathon debut last year in New York in 2hrs 23mins 23secs but missed the Boston Marathon last April due to an injury.
"I'm returning with a different mindset, hungry to defend my title and race against the fastest women in the world," Lokedi said.
Obiri was sixth at New York last year in her debut at the distance but won her second marathon start last April at Boston in 2:21:38.
She's a two-time world champion and a two-time Olympic runner-up at 5,000 meters and promises to be a bigger threat after sorting a better race strategy.
"I'm coming to New York this year with more confidence and in search of a title," Obiri said.
Kosgei, a two-time champion at the Chicago and London marathons, also won last year's Tokyo Marathon after a runner-up effort at the Tokyo Olympics.
She set a world record of 2:14:04 in her 2019 Chicago triumph, a mark that stood until Ethiopia's Tigist Assefa won the Berlin Marathon this past September in 2:11:53.
The Kenyan trio of Obiri, Lokedi and Koskei is joined by half marathon world record-holder Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia and possibly Tokyo Olympic champion and 2021 New York winner Peres Jepchirchir, a former half marathon world record-holder.
But Kenya's Jepchirchir, who also won last year's Boston Marathon, suffered a right calf injury last weekend in Kenya and was doubtful to start a race she had seen as crucial to her preparations to defend her Olympic crown next year in Paris.
"The pain in my leg, if it will continues Saturday, I think I will not race," Jepchirchir said. "By Saturday I'll know if I run or not."
Gidey's only prior marathon was last year at Valencia, where her 2:16:49 was the fastest-ever women's debut at the distance. She won the 2022 world title at 10,000m and was second in defending the crown in August.
"I'm aiming to win," Gidey said.
The New York Marathon women's course record, a target for the stellar striders this weekend, is 2:22:31 set in 2003 by Kenya's Margaret Okayo.
On the men's side, top contenders include Ethiopians Tamirat Tola, the 2022 world champion, and Shura Kitata, the 2020 London Marathon champion and a New York runner-up in 2018 and last year.
Tola, fourth in 2018 and 2019 in his two previous New York starts, dropped out while defending his world title in August in his most recent marathon start.
Kitata was 14th at Boston in April in his most recent marathon start.
Kenya's Albert Korir, the 2021 New York Marthon winner, was fourth at Boston and could be a title threat along with compatriot Edward Cheserek, who makes his marathon debut after winning September's Copenhagen Half-Marathon.