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Posted: April 21, 2023:  

(RRW) Athletics: Hassan Says That Marathon Debut In London Is All About The Journey

From David Monti, @d9monti
© 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved.

(21-Apr) -- Sifan Hassan's range as a distance runner is astonishing.

VIDEO STILL: Sifan Hassan speaking to the media at a press conference on Friday, April 21, in advance of the 2023 TCS London Marathon

At the short end, the Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman has run 1:56.81 for 800m, 3:51.95 for 1500m and 4:12.33 for the mile. At the long end, she's run 29:06.82 for 10,000m, 18,930m for the one-hour run on the track, and 1:05:15 for the half-marathon. Her mile and one-hour marks are world records and her 10,000m and half-marathon times are European records. She's also the European record holder for 3000m (8:18.49), 5000m (14:22.12) and 5 km on the road (14:44). At the 2019 World Athletics Championships she won gold medals in both the 1500m and the 10,000m, the only athlete (male or female) ever to accomplish that feat.

"This is amazing for me," Hassan said after completing that double in 2019. "This is such an honor. I'm showing what you can do with hard work. It was amazing when I crossed the line and I saw that time. I was so happy."

But for Sunday's TCS London Marathon, where Hassan will make her debut at the distance, the 30 year-old said that her finish time will not be important. She is just trying to learn the event after training through Ramadan.

"Really I don't have any goal for time," she said at this morning's press conference. "I can't really tell (how fast I will run); I don't know the journey."

Choosing London for her debut puts Hassan in a difficult position. Using a women-only format with strong pacemakers, the London organizers have traditionally sought fast times. Running against competitors like defending champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw of Ethiopia (PB of 2:17:23), reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir (2:17:16), and world record-holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya (2:14:04), Hassan will have to decide right from the gun whether to forge ahead at top speed over a distance she's never run, or hold back and risk running most of the race alone. She admitted that she's worried.

"I'm already having nervous now for one month," the usually easy going athlete said. "I'm scared of marathon. I'm already nervous, but at the same time I'm curious, too."

The world debut record is 2:16:49 by Ethiopia's Letesenbet Gidey from Valencia last December. When a reporter asked Hassan whether that was her target time, she looked at the assembled media in disbelief.

"I really don't have any time in my mind," she said again, as if reporters hadn't heard her the first time. "That's all. I want to finish. I don't even know the journey. I want to see the journey."

Moreover, Hassan said that she will return to the track after London and does not plan to contest the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August. She said she might run a fall marathon if things go well in London, but she's not sure. She's trying to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead.

"I'm excited... but also at the same time I'm very nervous for marathon," she said. "Sometimes I wake up and think, why the hell am I running a marathon?"

Unlike many other large and important marathons, the TCS London Marathon has retained a generous schedule of time bonuses (other races eliminated them due in part to the introduction of carbon-plated "super shoes"). London will pay USD 150,000 to any woman who breaks 2:16:00, USD 100,000 for sub-2:17:00, USD 75,000 for sub-2:17:30, and USD 50,000 for sub-2:18:30 (bonuses are not cumulative). In addition, another USD 150,000 is on the line for a women-only world record (sub-2:17:01); that bonus is cumulative with the time bonuses. A woman who wins the race in sub-2:16 will earn a total of USD 355,000.

But Hassan said that she didn't choose London for the chance to break a record or pocket a big bonus, but rather for the challenge of doing a new distance and running against great competition.

"This is kind of a championships," she said. "You don't know who will win until the end. That's why I chose London."

Separately, race organizers announced that Eilish McColgan had withdrawn from Sunday's race with an injury. The 32 year-old Scotswoman, who also scratched from last October's edition of the race, had "picked up a knee issue in recent days which has not responded to treatment," organizers said.

"Unfortunately, my knee hasn't improved as much as I wanted it to," McColgan said in a statement. "I was hopeful I could participate after some knee bursitis I had in February. I could run through that and I have tried to run through this, but it has got to the point where it isn't feasible to run a marathon. There have been a few factors that have come together like a bad storm in the past three weeks and the knee issue has been the final crack in the armour."

The last British woman to win the TCS London Marathon was Paula Radcliffe in 2005.

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