Zimbabwean female marathon runner Sharon Tavengwa faces a tough test against Kenyan and Ethiopian runners when she lines up in the women’s marathon at the London Olympic Games tomorrow in her debut.
Athletes will complete a first loop of 2,2 miles (3,571 kilometres), which takes them to the River Thames, south to the Houses of Parliament, and back up to The Mall past Buckingham Palace.
After this they run back to the river, and this time head east, towards the City of London and beyond to the Tower of London, in an eight-mile (12,875km) loop that is repeated three times to make up the marathon distance of 26,2 miles (42,195km).
Tavengwa qualified for the women’s marathon after winning the Utrecht Marathon in the Netherlands with an ‘A’ Standard qualifying time of 2hrs 35min and 25secs.
Tavengwa, who has spent the past three months in Kenya preparing for the London 2012 Games, will have some considerable knowledge of her Kenyan counterparts.
However, it will be a tough task for her to upstage her more illustrious opponents if you compare her time with that of her opponents as well as the fact that she is just recovering from a knee injury.
Kenyan female runner Mary Keitany is the favourite to end her country’s long wait for a gold medal in the women’s marathon.
In her last race — which also happened to be in the British capital — the 30-year-old Kenyan set an African record of 2hrs 18 mins 37secs to win the Virgin London Marathon.
Her teammates will be just as formidable. Edna Kiplagat won the World Championships last year and improved her time to 2hrs 19mins 50secs to finish second at this year’s London Marathon.
World silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo will be the third Kenyan in London, beating off the likes of Berlin Marathon winner Florence Kiplagat and Dubai second-place Lucy Kabuu to make it on to the team.
Like her Olympic team-mates, Jeptoo also set a PB in London this year, running 2:20:14 to finish third.
Although Keitany is the favourite, there will be two other women in the race who are being tipped to do well in the event.
Ethiopia will be fielding three sub-2hrs 20mins women in London. Tiki Gelana set a national record of 2hrs 18mins 58secs to win in Rotterdam earlier this year, while Aselefech Mergia (2:19:31) and Mare Dibaba (2:19:52) finished first and third respectively at the Dubai Marathon in January.
China is also expected to be strong. Zhu Xiaolin and Wang Jiali both finished in the top eight at last year’s World Championships and will be in action in London.