(28-Sep) -- With World Athletics record holder Brigid Kosgei a late scratch due to a hamstring injury, there is no clear favorite for victory for Sunday's 42nd TCS London Marathon which will be held off-cycle in October for the third consecutive year. A remarkable seven athletes in the all-women's elite field of 16 have personal best times faster than 2:19, and any one of them could emerge victorious on The Mall and threaten Mary Keitany's all-women's World Athletics record of 2:17:01 set in London in 2017. The winner would stand to pocket USD 355,000 in prize money and time bonuses should that happen.
PHOTO: Joyciline Jepkosgei finishing the 2022 Boston Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
Defending champion Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya might enjoy a slight edge, however. Jepkosgei, 28, who dropped her rivals in last year's race with a 4:56 24th mile, showed her mastery of the event running nearly equal halves of 1:08:51 and 1:08:52. While she was the surprise winner of the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon in her debut --beating Mary Keitany who has since retired-- it would shock no one if she won on Sunday.
"I'm so excited to be here again for the 2022 London Marathon," Jepkosgei told reporters this morning at a press conference. She added: "My preparation has been going on well. I'm ready for Sunday. I'm hoping to do well on Sunday."
Jepkosgei's last marathon did not go well. In Boston last April, she ran with the leaders through halfway in a snappy 1:09:41, but faded in the second half to finish seventh in 2:24:43. She should be fresh coming into Sunday's race as she hasn't raced at any distance since the Boston race which was more than five months ago.
"Training is always the same: the program, recovery and everything," Jepkosgei said this morning. She added: "According to my preparation I'm trying to do my best... maybe to improve my personal best. That's my target."
Another Kenyan, Judith Jeptum Korir, is in the opposite situation. Korir, 26, who won the silver medal in the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene last July, will be competing on Sunday just 76 days after winning her medal in Oregon. Korir was a pacemaker at last year's TCS London Marathon (she went to 30-K in 1:37:27, on pace for a 2:17:04 finish) and planned to do the same this year. However, race organizers elevated her to "competitor" status in the wake of Kosgei's withdrawal. It will be interesting to see how she does given the long rest she took after Eugene before starting to train again.
"After World Championships I went to relax for almost three weeks," said Korir, who ran a career-best time of 2:18:20 in Eugene. The 2022 Paris Marathon champion continued: "Then I was told to prepare for pacing. Unfortunately, I was told (later) run and finish the London Marathon. I was not well-prepared to finish."
When asked to clarify her statement about not being fully prepared for Sunday she said: "Now I am psychologically prepared to finish. "For Sunday I would like to run my best. I hope I will run my seasonal best, to run my PB."
Four Ethiopians --Yalemzerf Yehualaw (2:17:23 PB), Ashete Bekere (2:17:58), Sutume Asefa Kebede (2:18:12), and Alemu Megertu (2:18:51)-- are also in the sub-2:19 group while a fifth, Hiwot Gebrekidan, has run nearly that fast (2:19:10). Joan Chelimo Melly, who competed for Kenya before switching her allegiance to Romania last year, is the other sub-2:19 entrant with a 2:18:04 personal best.
A British woman hasn't won the TCS London Marathon since Paula Radcliffe collected her third title in 2005, and that is unlikely to change on Sunday. The top British women entered in Sunday's race are Charlotte Purdue (2:23:26 PB), Steph Twell (2:26:40), and Rose Harvey (2:27:20). Purdue, 31, who was unable to finish the World Athletics Championships Marathon and later revealed that she caught COVID while in Eugene, is hoping for a much better race on Sunday. In her last two completed marathons she did well, finishing ninth at Boston last April in 2:25:26, and running a personal best 2:23:26 in London a year ago, despite running most of the race alone.
"I'm focused on a fast time, but I also want to finish higher up," Purdue said this morning, marveling at the depth of the field. She added: "London is a fast course, but is often just a time trial for me."
Unlike last Sunday's BMW Berlin Marathon where the elite women ran with the men and were able to take advantage of male pacemakers, the elite women running in London will compete in a separate all-women's section and all of the pacemakers will be women. As such, the benchmark World Athletics record to target is Keitany's 2:17:01 instead of Kosgei's 2:14:04. That different standard creates the opportunity for a big payday given the bonus structure offered by the race which uses the 2:17:01 to trigger a potential total of USD 300,000 in time bonuses.
On the heels of Eliud Kipchoge's pending world record of 2:01:09 in Berlin last Sunday, Jepkosgei is excited to perhaps make her own history in London.
"I watched it," she said of Kipchoge's race. "It was a fantastic race for all athletes there. Berlin is Berlin, but London is a good course."