Mary Keitany’s main focus at the London marathon is usually on hunting down Paula Radcliffe’s untouchable 2hr 15min 25sec world record. This time around, however, her primary focus is on joining the Norwegian champion Ingrid Kristiansen in winning a record four titles at the event.
“If I win on Sunday it would be special for me,” Keitany, 37, said. “I have won New York four times and London three times, so I want to win on Sunday to match.”
However, while the bookies make the Kenyan a warm favourite it may pay again to back her friend, Vivian Cheruiyot, who believes she is in better condition than when she won the 2018 London marathon. “My shape is better and if the weather and pace is good – and I know it will be – I know I’m going to run my personal best,” she said. “I’ll be happy if I do maybe 2:17, something like that – that’s what I’m aiming for.”
Last year the 35-year-old, an inspector in Kenya’s police force, was 1min 40sec back at halfway but she solved how to handle running in temperatures that hit 24C on the day to record an even split and come home in a personal best of 2:18:31 – beating Keitany, who had led earlier in the race before wilting in the heat.
This time round, Cheruyiot is planning to stay closer to the pace. “It depends what they do because sometimes if they can do 3:10 every kilometre pace, it can be too fast, so I’m going to calculate according to my shape and my body,” she said. “But I’m not going to leave them the way they normally go.”
There are also strong pre-race whispers for another Kenyan, Gladys Cherono, a three-time Berlin marathon champion, and her compatriot Brigid Kosgei, who won the Chicago marathon in October after finishing second in London 12 months ago. However Keitany still believes she is the one to beat – and she is determined to make up for last year’s bad run.
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“In marathons there are many challenges,” she said. “If you fail today, make sure you learn something to not repeat the same mistake. It was not nice to lose it like that but in the marathon you also have to learn from your mistakes.
“Everybody here is in good form, that’s why we are here,” she added. “But I’m ready.”