LONDON, United Kingdom, Apr 21 – A new marathon world record could be on the cards on Sunday when the best elite women’s field ever assembled go for victory on the streets of the British capital at the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon.
Leading the world-record charge will be Kenya’s Mary Keitany, the second fastest woman of all time, who will go for her third London victory against a field that includes four women who have broken the two hours 20-minute barrier and eight that have run under 2:22.
Among them are two of the three medallists from last year’s race, three previous London champions and the winners of last year’s Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York City, but Keitany exuded confidence as she spoke about her race prospects today.
“I’ve trained enough,” Keitany said enigmatically. “I’m ready to race on Sunday.”
The 35-year-old went on to say that she believes the women only marathon world record of 2:17:42, set by Paula Radcliffe at the 2005 London Marathon, is within her sights – as she challenged her fellow Kenyans Florence Kiplagat and Vivian Cheruyiot to work together at this year’s race.
“If the weather is fine for us, and we cooperate, I think we will run a great time,” said Keitany. “Cooperation means working with the pacemakers, and if we make sure that one person doesn’t go it alone, we will run well.”
The diminutive Kenyan won’t have it all her own way though, as Florence Kiplagat laid out her own agenda for Race Day.
“I’m not happy with my finish positions here in London,” said Kiplagat, who has finished second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth on her five previous appearances. “I want to win here.”
Kiplagat had an excellent end to 2016, winning the Chicago Marathon in October, and has been running 200km a week in training to prepare for her sixth London Marathon.
The 30-year-old spoke about her renewed sense of purpose after the disappointment of losing her half marathon world record earlier this year.
“Of course I’m not happy that my record was broken, but it encourages me to work harder,” she said.
Kiplagat wasn’t the only runner today to talk about turning a negative into a positive. Keitany also acknowledged that her disappointing result in London a year ago, when she finished ninth after being tripped at the 22-mile mark, had been a source of motivation as she prepared for this year’s race.
The Kenyan selectors left her out of the team for the Rio Olympics, but she bounced back to win her third New York City Marathon title in the Big Apple in November, finishing more than three and a half minutes ahead of Sally Kipyego.
“I was very disappointed not to go to Rio as I had prepared well,” she said. “I felt discouraged at first but I ran a 10K personal best [at the Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine] in August so that was a good positive after not being selected for the Olympics.”
She then touched on the theme of this year’s London Marathon by talking about her #ReasonToRun on Sunday.
“I run because of my family; they motivate me. Running is my career so I have to work hard at it; it’s also an investment in my future.”
Keitany and Kiplagat will also be keeping an eye on their fellow Kenyan Vivian Cheruyiot, who is making her marathon debut at the age of 33 after a stellar career on the track that culminated in an Olympic gold medal in the 5000m in Rio.
“When I was racing in Rio, I was talking about running a marathon,” said the ever-smiling Cheruyiot today.
“London is like my second home so I wanted to race here. I want to run fast, because it’s my first marathon, but equally I don’t feel too much pressure as it’s my debut; I know the line-up is strong so my goal is to run well and finish.”
Like many of the runners making their marathon debut on Sunday, Cheruyiot admitted she’d found training for the 26.2-mile challenge tougher than expected.
“Doing 40km runs in training was hard for me; I had to adjust my mind set,” she said.
“I was running about 100km a week when I was training for the track but that’s gone up to about 150km a week now that I’m marathon training.
“I’ve also received lots of advice and encouragement from Mary and Florence so I thank them for that.”
When Keitany was asked how many miles she runs a week in training, she laughed and said she’d never added it up.
Whether all the miles add up to a new world record on Sunday remains to be seen.