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Stars set for epic clash at London Marathon today

ATHLETICS By Jonathan Komen | October 3rd 2021
Joyciline Jepkosgei on her way to winning the 2019 women’s New York City Marathon. [File]

Eliud Kipchoge may be absent from the start-line for the Virgin Money London Marathon today but compatriot Brigid Kosgei will be aiming to emulate his dominance of the World Athletics Elite Platinum Label road race when she goes in search of a third consecutive victory.

Kipchoge, a four-time London winner but surprisingly beaten a year ago, has chosen to sit out this year’s race to recover from his gold medal-winning exertions in the Olympic marathon, though Kosgei has no such qualms about returning to the scene of her triumphs in 2019 and 2020 just eight weeks after earning silver in the heat and humidity of Sapporo.

“My body was very tired [after the Olympics] but I did a lot of correction until I became okay,” said Kosgei.

“That’s why I’ve come to London to try to do my best.”

Whether Kosgei has genuinely recovered is certain to be exposed by a stellar women’s field that includes five women who have run faster than 2:19 and nine who have gone sub 2:20.

Among them are Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, who clocked 2:17:45 to win the 2020 Tokyo Marathon, as well as Ethiopian pair Roza Dereje and Birhane Dibaba, who have personal bests of 2:18:30 and 2:18:35 respectively.

The caveat is that all three were also in action at the Olympics in August, though with wildly differing fortunes. While Dereje just missed out on the podium in fourth place, Salpeter placed a weary 66th and Dibaba failed to finish.

If post-Olympic fatigue does play its part on Sunday, the big beneficiary could be Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei, who was not part of the Kenyan team in Japan and who will be making her London debut after her victory in New York in 2019 (2:22:38) and runner-up spot in Valencia in 2020 (2:18:40).

October 4, 2020 Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich and Brigid Kosgei during the elite women's race of the London Marathon Pool via REUTERS

Given the size of the challenge she faces, Kosgei has already ruled out any attempt on Mary Keitany’s women-only world record of 2:17:01, set in London in 2017, to add to the mixed-sex race world record of 2:14:04 she set in Chicago two years ago.

“I don’t have any course record in mind,” said Kosgei. “I’m coming from the Olympics just over a month ago, so there’s been no time for preparation for the women-only record.”

Regardless of the clock, a victory for Kosgei would equal another significant mark by making her only the second woman to complete three back-to-back London victories after Germany’s Katrin Dorre achieved the feat between 1992 and 1994.

 

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