Elite Women’s Preview: Keitany stars in stellar line-up
Six of the world’s fastest marathon runners gathered at Tower Bridge today (19th April) ahead of Sunday’s Virgin Money London Marathon 2017.
The 2017 women’s field, topped by two-time London Marathon champion Mary Keitany, is one of the strongest ever assembled for a major city marathon.
Keitany is one of four women in the line-up who have broken the two hours 20 minute barrier while no fewer than eight have run quicker than 2:22. Among them are two of the three of medallists from last year’s race, three previous London champions, and the winners at last year’s Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
Keitany is again the quickest on paper thanks to the African record of 2:18:37 she set on her second London Marathon victory in 2012, a time that makes her the second quickest woman marathon runner of all time behind Britain’s Paula Radcliffe.
She completed a hat-trick of New York City Marathon titles last November and is now aiming to become only the fourth woman to win the London Marathon three times.
After finishing runner-up in 2015, Keitany could only place ninth last April after she was involved in a collision with two other athletes. That cost her a place on Kenya’s Rio team and the 35-year-old will feel she has something to prove.
Alongside her will be a trio of fellow Kenyans – Florence Kiplagat, the 2015 and 2016 Chicago champion and a former half marathon world record holder who was third here last year and second in 2014; last year’s Tokyo Marathon champion and 2015 world silver medallist, Helah Kiprop; and the Olympic 5000m champion, Vivian Cheruiyot, who will make her marathon debut at 33.
That quartet of quality Kenyans is matched by a five-strong Ethiopian contingent with equally impressive credentials.
They include the reigning world champion and Olympic bronze medallist, Mare Dibaba, who finished sixth last year; her namesake, Tirunesh Dibaba, the triple Olympic and five-time world track champion, who was third on her marathon debut in London three years ago; and the 2015 London champion, Tigist Tufa, who crossed the line second here last year.
Ethiopia will also have high hopes for Aberu Kebede, the three-times Berlin Marathon champion who has also won the Frankfurt, Tokyo and Rotterdam marathons in recent years. And we shouldn’t discount the 2010 London champion, Aselefech Mergia, who has won the Dubai Marathon three times. She also fell in that unfortunate incident 12 months ago.
Those nine east Africans will doubtless form the leading pack but they will be closely followed by a batch of top-class Europeans with realistic hopes of making their own mark on the race.
They include Andrea Deelstra, who ran for the Netherlands in Rio, and Switzerland’s two-time Olympian, Maja Neuenschwander, who won the Vienna Marathon in 2015.
Former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Lisa Weightman flies the flag for Australia, while Britain’s 43-year-old five-time Olympian, Jo Pavey, will do
battle with Rio Olympian Alyson Dixon and fellow GB internationals Charlotte Purdue and Susan Partridge for London 2017 World Championship selection.