World record holder wants to make it three in a row after taking Tokyo silver
World record holder Brigid Kosgei (KEN) is ready to defend her Virgin Money London Marathon title on Sunday 3 October, despite facing one of the highest-quality fields ever assembled just eight weeks after taking a Tokyo Olympic silver medal in the gruelling heat and humidity of Sapporo.
Kosgei, who smashed Paula Radcliffe’s long-standing world record in Chicago two years ago, is aiming to be the first woman to win three back-to-back London Marathons since Katrin Dörre in the early 1990s.
But she was beaten to the Olympic crown in August by her compatriot Peres Jepchirchir and will line up on Sunday morning with a body she admits is still feeling the effects of that tough defeat.
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Tired after Tokyo
“I ran the Olympics just last month and my body is still very tired,” she said on Thursday. “After Tokyo I had two days’ break then I carried on training.
“I have done a lot of preparation and now I am OK. It went well, so I am ready to do my best on Sunday.
“I want to defend my title and will be very happy [to win three in a row]. I can’t say anything more than that.”
Kosgei’s second triumph 12 months ago came without crowd support as she ran through the cold autumn rain of central London, negotiating the closed looped course around St James’s Park to win in 2:18:58, more than three minutes ahead of her nearest rival.
I love London and the spectators here because they cheer everyone on the day. I hope I have the power to do my maximum.
Losing the loops
“I didn’t like the loops last year,” she said. “We went round and round and round, and my head was turning and turning by the end.
“This time it won’t be a loop, we are going straight and I really appreciate that.
“I love London and the spectators here because they cheer everyone on the day. I hope I have the power to do my maximum.”
Kosgei’s ‘maximum’ is considerably faster than anyone else’s, of course, her world record of 2:14:04 being more than three-and-a-half minutes quicker than the best of her opponents in Sunday’s race.
Record out of reach?
But Kosgei knows she’s unlikely to reach those speeds in London and admits the 2:17:01 course best and women-only world record of recently retired three-time champion Mary Keitany may also be out of reach this year.
“I won’t have the course record in mind, as I recently came from running the Olympics only last month, so my preparation is not good enough to do it,” she said.
“Mary Keitany is a good lady and she’s has been encouraging us to work hard so we can break her women-only world record.
“We are here to try our best to do that if we can make it. Or maybe next time. It depends how it will be.
“There are a lot of strong competitors in the race and everybody wants to be in the top three.”
Winning the coveted title again would be achievement enough against a talent-packed field that includes no fewer than eight other women who have broken 2:20, headed by Israel’s 2020 Tokyo Marathon champion Lonah Salpeter, who’s making her London debut, and Roza Dereje, the 2019 Valencia Marathon champion who will be hoping to improve on third here two years ago.
Dereje is one of eight powerful Ethiopians in the line-up, while Kosgei will be joined by fellow Kenyans Joyciline Jepkosgei and Valary Jemeli.
Jepkosgei is the reigning New York City Marathon champion and approaches her London debut in confident mood after winning the prestigious Berlin half marathon just six weeks ago in 65 minutes 16 seconds.
Best in Berlin
“The Berlin half marathon was the best for me, and my training has gone well over the last few weeks, so I am ready to run sub-2:20,” said the former world half marathon record holder.
I have already won in New York, but this is my first London Marathon. It was a pleasure to be invited to London. It will be a test for me but I’m glad to be here and am here to do my best.
After five straight victories for Kenya’s women, and nine in the last 10 editions of the race, there will be extra motivation for the Ethiopian cohort. Tigist Tufa was the last Ethiopian women’s winner back in 2015, when she forced the much-favoured Keitany to play second fiddle.
With three Tokyo Marathon titles to her name, plus five other podium places in Abbott World Marathon Majors races, Birhane Dibaba will be one of those looking to emulate Tufa’s victory.
After placing ninth in 2019, she too feels ready to take on the two-time champion.
“I am well prepared and feel in similar shape to all my previous races,” said the consistent 28-year-old who has a best of 2:18:35.
“Like all the athletes, I came here to win the race. It is very tough, of course, but I want to beat them and do my best.”