NAIROBI, Kenya, April 16- With two-time world champion Catherine Ndereba in the twilight of her illustrious medal-laden marathon career, Lucy Wangui Kabuu is revving up to fill the void of the athlete revered as ‘The Great’.
In January, she underlined her credentials when she stormed to 2:19:34 to become the eighth fastest woman ever in the ultimate distance as she placed second in the Dubai Marathon on her debut.
On Sunday, she faces her sternest test yet when she competes in her first World Marathon Majors event in London where she will line-up in a field similar to those her mentor crafted her name.
“Ndereba is my hero and I’m praying God to be like her. She is the queen of marathon so, I too have hope that I will be the queen of marathon and the world record holder,” Kabuu said before her schdeuled departure for London on Monday.
Just like Ndereba, Kabuu was born in Nyeri County, Central Province although her Ichamara Village in Mukurweini birthplace is quite a distance from the Ihururu Village her idol was raised.
Having never won the London race in her illustrious career, it will be quite a feat if Kabuu trumps a deep field that includes four of her country’s Olympics probables among a stellar cast of international runners.
“It will be very competitive but I do not fear anybody since I have prepared myself well and I believe in the training that I have done. I have not changed my training but most of it; I did before the Dubai Marathon.
“What I have improved on is my speed and endurance,” the two-time Olympian who missed out on the Dubai crown by three seconds added.
Based on this roaring performance that caused ripples back in her home land, Athletics Kenya (AK) bosses declined to include her in the London Olympics plans having earlier selected six probables.
Part of her mission on Sunday will be to present them with a selection head ache after being belatedly included in the line-up.
“The squad for now is provisional and I have run 2:19. My plans are to go and win that marathon and clock a commendable time to give me a chance to go to the Olympics,” the 2006 Commonwealth Games 10000m champion pressed.
In a cast where four women have raced under 2:20 and a further 13 running inside 2:23, defending champion Mary Keitany, world titleholder, Edna Kiplagat, Chicago winner, Florence Kiplagat and Daegu silver medallist, Priscah Jeptoo are the Kenyan Olympics probables she will pit her mettle against in London.
AK boss Isaiah Kiplagat ruled out her inclusion in the Olympics probables list citing her relative inexperience in the distance and the fact that racing in two fast marathons would leave her drained for the main event, a notion Kabuu dispels.
“Nowadays, the marathon has changed it is not like before. The one who won in Rotterdam (Tiki Gelana) won in December and ran in January. If you are in good condition, you can do marvellous.
“There are four months for recovering and training. Running three marathons in a year depend on how your body recovers and if it recovers quickly, you can do three or more,” she stressed.
Having been blessed with daughter Angel in between an Achilles tendon injury that kept her inactive for three seasons, Kabuu has renewed vigour as she strives to make up for lost time.
“My family has done a lot for me,” she gushes while lifting her young daughter. “She always asks me where are clothes, sweets and shoes when I return and for me to provide them, I must do well to get the money.”
Married to Josephat Kamau who also doubles up as her training partner, Kabuu established her career in Japan where she won a scholarship at the Amori Yada High School.
While in Japan, she won the 1500m at the high school championships and after graduation in 2002, she commenced training with the Suzuki Track and Field Club.
She signed with PACE Sports Management under Ricky Simms and made her Olympics debut in Athens where she finished ninth before improving to seventh in Beijing.
When the London organisers confirmed her inclusion in the field in early February, Kabuu shifted her training base from Nyahururu where she has established residence to the high altitude of Rift Valley in Iten.
“We decided to move to Iten straight away so that she can train in the same region as the runners she will face in London in an effort to ensure she is at an equal footing ahead of the race,” Maina explained at the time.
Upon her return from injury Kabuu had wins at the Great North Run Half Marathon and Great Edinburgh Run 10K in September and October before she travelled to the Delhi Half Marathon where she triumphed in a personal best of 1:07:04 ahead of Worlds marathon bronze winner Sharon Cherop.
The work is cut out for Kabuu, 28, to match her idol who won two Olympics silver medals, held the world marathon record, added four Boston and two Chicago titles to her Paris and Osaka Worlds crowns.
A resounding win on Sunday will set her firmly on the path of inheriting the mantle from ‘The Great’.