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Even top coaches can’t predict who will win on Sunday

Last updated 20 days ago | By Stephen Rutto

Athletics - London Marathon Preview Press Conference - The Tower Hotel, London, Britain - April 25, 2019 Kenya's Gladys Cherono, Vivian Cheruiyot, Mary Keitany and Brigid Kosgei pose ahead of the London marathon. [Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs]

The clock is ticking on the much-awaited clash at the London Marathon on Sunday. It is only three days away and the world major marathon of the season is expected to end in a thriller.

After a challenging period, top marathoners will be facing off in a race happening amid confusion brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted major sporting activities.

From an elites’ only lineup to a closed-loop circuit within St James’s Park, the London Marathon exemplifies how sporting events will be organised amid pandemics.

The Kenyan team led by the world’s greatest of all time in the marathon Eliud Kipchoge and the record holder in the women’s category Brigid Kosgei are gearing up for one of the world’s unique and conceivably an adrenaline-packed race.

According to athletics coaches, who have for years produced Kenyan running machines in track and road, London will be a race that no one will afford to miss.

Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele, Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepngetich were among the first athletes and coaches to arrive at the biosecure hotel bubble on Monday ahead of the 2020’s biggest athletics clash.

“After months of planning and preparation, we were delighted to welcome more than 40 athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, USA, Canada, Mexico and Australia to the bubble today. The excitement is really building now,” Spencer Barden, Elite Athlete Manager for the Virgin Money London Marathon said.

The Standard Sport sought the views of the Kenyan coaches on the much-awaited race.

Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich competes in the Women's Marathon at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha on September 27, 2019. [Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP]

Erick Kimaiyo

This year, the race is quite unique because the Covid-19 pandemic changed how mass events are conducted across the globe.

Even preparation for this race was marred with challenges and it is not easy to predict performances on Sunday.

Marathoners trained for this race in their unique and innovative ways.

The organisation of the London marathon will redefine how athletics competitions will be conducted in future.

From this race, for example, many road races might be held on loops and secure courses, and spectators left to watch the action from their homes.

The course is more of a track than a road and is likely to create a level of stress for athletes who have previously raced in London.

Every athlete has the potential of winning the London title this year, but this will depend on their level of training during this period.

From my observation, it is crystal clear that biosecurity technology and other technological advancements will take over sports event management in the near future. The way the 42 kilometre race has been run over the years may after all be held in a loop.

The enforcement of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus are adhered strictly in London and will possibly be enforced during the race.

Kimaiyo coaches world record holder Brigid Kosgei at the Kapsait training camp in Elgeyo Marakwet County and is in London ahead of the race.

Richard Metto

It is tricky to predict who takes the title in London this year and we can only say that the winner will be known when the first man or woman crosses the finish line.

Eliud Kipchoge prepared well for this race and I am hopeful he will triumph.

The mental preparedness and physique of every individual athlete will determine who crosses the finish first.

Kipchoge left for London in his right state of mind and form and I hope he will maintain it on Sunday.

We trained him in line with a course almost similar to the one in London.

Metto is the assistant coach to Eliud Kipchoge’s tactician Patrick Sang.

Kenya's Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala and Marathon record holder, Eliud Kipchoge, out on a morning run on the morning of Sunday, August 9, 2020. [Standard Sports]

Joseph Cheromei

The London course is a fast course and will not be a problem for any elite athlete.

The biggest problem for the Kenyan contingent will, however, be the challenge posed by Ethiopian counterparts.

Kipchoge’s challenge will be Kenenisa Bekele, because he dedicated more time training for this race. Plus, Ethiopia did not put restrictions such as disbandment of training camps like Kenya did when Covid-19 was reported in the country.

London will be a game of master tactics and endurance. Any athlete who will take to the race these qualities will run away with the title.

Kenya has sent more pace-setters than Ethiopia and Bekele may hang with our pacers and sprint in the final stretch.

The long period athletes have spent without competition will be another recipe for faster speeds in London. Marathoners will be taking to the start line sufficient energy to run faster times.

For example, Peres Jepchirchir smashed the women-only race half marathon world record at the Prague half marathon on September 5 because she took advantage of the adequate time during the pandemic period to prepare for the race.

In the women’s category, I have faith in Valary Jemeli Aiyabei. She trained well and more often ran in a course and conditions similar to those in London during her preparations.

Cheromei is an Iten-based coach who trains Valary Jemeli, the Frankfurt marathon champion and who is competing in the Sunday race.

Paul Kemei

The London Marathon’s changed course was shared early enough for athletes and coaches to prepare well for the race.

I looked at it and in my view, it is a fast course compared to the traditional course.

Athletes are accustomed to the traditional, largely flat course around River Thames. I believe the Sunday course will not be difficult for experienced marathoners to adapt to.

The course will be almost similar to that for cross country and will favour athletes who had experience in the event before graduating to the marathon.

Kipchoge and Bekele dominated the track before shifting to the road and the London course may not disadvantage the duo on Sunday.

The confidence of Kenyan athletes and the quality of the pacesetters will also determine the speed of the leading marathoners.

I was in Eldoret when the Kenyan team was departing for London and I admired the athletes’ confidence. The great measure of confidence and preparation will also work in their favour.

In my prediction, Kenyan athletes will display a great show in London despite a grueling challenge expected from Ethiopian guns.

Kemei is the coach at Lemotit Athletics camp in Londiani, Kericho County. He trains Sandrafelis Chebet who has been tasked with pacing for the lead group of women in London.

Athletics - London Marathon - Elite Men Press Conference - London, Britain - April 19, 2018. Kenya's Daniel Wanjiru and Eliud Kipchoge with Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele and Guye Adola pose for a photograph. [Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra]
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