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Jeptoo eyes London marathon title defence in April

22 January 2014, 17:40

Nairobi - Time will be not crucial for Kenya's Olympic silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo, when she puts her London Marathon title on the line on April 13.

"I ran my personal best time last year and won the race. But the main challenge for me now is to defend successfully the title and if at all it will come with another faster time, then that will be a bonus," Jeptoo told Xinhua Wednesday in Kapsabet

"Running in London is not a small task. All the other athletes come with an aim of winning and they are the best we have. So it will be a tough call, but I hope I will withstand their pressure and reign at the end," she said.

Organizers of the London marathon have released the list of the elite women to compete in the event, which reads who is who in the 42km distance.

The Olympic champion, the world champion and one of the greatest distance runners of all time will be among Jeptoo's opponents on April 13.

Jeptoo produced the world's second fastest time of 2013 to win the London Marathon last April and the Kenyan will need to be equally impressive this year as she steps up to defend her crown against an elite field.

The elite field includes three athletes who have run quicker than two hours 20 minutes and eight who have finished in under 2:25, plus the three-times Olympic track champion and multi-world record breaker Tirunesh Dibaba, who is making her marathon debut.

Jeptoo will return to London full of confidence after enjoying a great year in 2013.

The Olympic silver medallist also won the Great North Run half marathon in September and added the New York Marathon title in November, a victory which made her half a million dollars richer as she clinched the World Marathon Majors prize.

"I just started my training. It was bountiful year 2013 and I hope I will enjoy another episode of good results in 2014. I hope to run under the 2:19 mark and later if possible try to break the world record."

"I will be heading to Czech for the Prague Half Marathon in February to gauge my endurance and speed and also the level of fitness my training partners have. I intend to carry one of the two training partners to London so it is important to gauge them in a competitive race," said Jeptoo.

Jeptoo's main threat could again come from Tiki Gelana, the Ethiopian who beat her to the Olympic title in pouring rain at London 2012 but saw her London Marathon chances disappear last year when she unfortunately clashed in a racing incident with Josh Cassidy, one of the world's top wheelchair racers.

Gelana eventually finished 16th and a few months later dropped out of the World Championships marathon in Moscow.

As the fastest woman in the field, the Ethiopian record holder will feel she has a point to prove on her return to the British capital.

Jeptoo will also face stiff competition from Edna Kiplagat, the Kenyan who retained her world title in Moscow last August and has been runner-up in London for the last two years.

"It was hard last year. The race was a bit slow so I will try and push up the pace in the early stages and see how the rest responds. It is a classy field so everyone will be watching the other," said Kiplagat.

"But I focus more on my strength and winning London remains one of my challenges," Edna Kiplagat told Xinhua on Wednesday from her training base in Iten.

"Depending on the weather, I will try and run faster, but the target is to win the race. I will not be running any races between now and April so as to prepare well for the conquest."

Florence Kiplagat, who won the Berlin Marathon for a second time last September, will also be dipping her toes in the murky waters at the London Marathon. She was fourth in 2012 and sixth last year.

"The plan is to win. But I will see how the body responds when I compete at the Barcelona Half Marathon next month. The opponents don't concern me, I have to look at what I can offer and not who I am running against," said Florence in Eldoret.

No doubt the favourites will all keep a wary eye on Tirunesh Dibaba, however, as the Ethiopian steps up to the marathon after a glittering career on the track.

Dibaba won the world 10,000m title for the third time in Moscow, adding another gold medal to a collection that also includes two world 5000m crowns and three Olympic titles, plus numerous world records and cross country honours.

Dibaba was due to make her debut last year but withdrew from the field with a shin injury just a month before the race.

She made a successful return to the roads last September after the Moscow World Championships, breaking the Ethiopian 10km record in Tilburg and finishing third behind Jeptoo and Meseret Defar at the Great North Run.

Two other Ethiopians will also be worth watching. Aberu Kebede has twice won the Berlin Marathon and last year added victories in the Tokyo and Shanghai Marathons.

Her record in London is less successful, however, she was ninth in 2011 and sixth two years ago.

Feysa Tadesse also comes with strong credentials. Having won the Shanghai Marathon in 2012, she clinched the Paris Marathon last April with a personal best just outside 2:21.

London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher said in a statement: "We are delighted to welcome back Priscah Jeptoo. Our champion was a deserved winner of the World Marathon Majors title and has shown with her performances over the last two years that she will be extremely difficult to beat."

"We are also pleased to see the world and Olympic champions on our start line again. Both Edna and Tiki had reason to feel frustrated last year. Edna because she just missed out for a second year in succession, and Tiki because of her unfortunate accident. I am sure they will both be determined to make their returns to London successful."

"All three will have to be at their very best to win the title in 2014 as our elite athlete coordinator David Bedford has again put together a field to match any in the world. With so many proven performers, and Tirunesh Dibaba making her debut, we have quite a race in prospect."

2014 Elite Women's Field and Personal Bests:

Tiki Gelana (ETH), 2:18:58, 2012 Olympic marathon champion

Florence Kiplagat (KEN), 2:19:44, 2013 Berlin Marathon champion

Edna Kiplagat (KEN), 2:19:50, 2011 & 2013 World marathon champion

Priscah Jeptoo (KEN), 2:20:14, 2013 London Marathon champion

Aberu Kebede (ETH), 2:20:30, 2013 Tokyo Marathon champion

Feysa Tadesse (ETH), 2:21:06, 2013 Paris Marathon champion

Tetyana Hamera-Shmyrko (UKR), 2:23:58, 2013 Osaka Marathon champion

Jessica Augusto (POR), 2:24:33

Kim Smith (NZL), 2:25:21

Ana Dulce Felix (POR), 2:25:40

Nadia Ejjafini (ITA), 2:26:15

Diane Nukuri-Johnson (BDI), 2:29:54

Amy Whitehead (GBR), 2:33:44

Emma Stepto (GBR), 2:35:05

Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH), Debut

Gemma Steel (GBR), Debut

Lyudmila Konavalenko (UKR), Debut

- Xinhua


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