LONDON – Successive London marathon victories have given Mary Keitany the belief that she can beat off a strong field and finally win women’s marathon gold for Kenya on Sunday.
The softly-spoken 30-year-old, seeking her first global championship title, will start as favourite after becoming the third fastest woman at the distance in scorching to a 2:18:37 time on the streets of the British capital in April, following up her 2011 victory.
“After I won twice in London I was happy. It gave me the belief to understand that I am strong,” she told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
“I think I am in shape because after the marathon I went home and I ran uphill to prepare myself for the Olympics, so I think I am ready for Sunday.”
The Kenyans boast a strong team with world champion Edna Kiplagat, second behind Keitany in London, and Priscah Jeptoo who finished third that day, also in the field.
Kenya have twice taken silver in the race with Catherine Ndereba finishing second in 2004 and 2008.
Asked about her rivalry with Kiplagat, Keitany laughed and then gave the question a few moments thought. Smiling again, she then crossed her hands and declined to answer.
Keitany, instead, said the “whole field” were her rivals.
“I think everybody is in shape for the Olympics. At the start of the race I think that everyone will be my rivals so I won’t mention the name of anybody,” she said.
The field will not contain Britain’s world record holder Paula Radcliffe, who will miss the race after failing osteoarthritis in her foot, and Keitany spared a thought for her.
“Of course I was very sorry to hear that Paula Radcliffe will not be with us, and I would have been happy to have competed with her,” she said. “But unfortunately I am saying sorry because she is not in the team.”
Keitany said it would be hard to beat her London winning time – only Radcliffe and Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova have gone faster – and predicted a tactical, rather than fast race.
“The route will be a bit different from the one that we have been running for the marathon because there are a lot of corners and it will be a narrow route so it needs a lot of tacticals,” she said.