Greenhorn Linet Masai hopes to upstage big names when she competes in London Marathon for the first time on Sunday.
Masai, the 2009 World 10,000 metres champion who counts herself lucky to be competing in the prestigious race only on her second appearance in the marathon, has said she is out to learn more from her experienced fellow countrywomen.
“Though well prepared, I’m a bit tense, this being my second outing after finishing fifth on my marathon debut in Amsterdam last year,” the 29-year-old Masai said, noting that this year’s London Marathon has one of the strongest women’s fields ever.
Masai, the 2008 Olympics 10,000m bronze medallist, noted that the field has the second fastest woman in history in Mary Keitany (2 hours, 17 minutes and 01 seconds), Berlin Marathon champion Gladys Cherono (2:18:11) who has the sixth fastest time, and defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot (2:18:31).
Masai said it would be foolhardy to underrate Brigid Kosgei, who won Chicago Marathon last year in 2:18:35, which makes her the fourth fastest athlete in the field for Sunday’s race.
“One has to run smart and tactical when coming up against such a fine field,” said Masai, the 2011 World 10,000m bronze medallist who won women’s silver medals at the 2009, 2010 and 2011 World Cross Country Championships.
In fifth place, Masai was the top Kenyan finisher with a time of 2:23:45 at last year’s Amsterdam Marathon won by Ethiopian Tadelech Bekele. Bekele retained her title in 2:23:07, leading her compatriots in a podium sweep.
Shasho Insermu, who is the Copenhagen Half Marathon champion, clocked 2:23:13 for second place while Azmera Gebru returned 2:23:31 for third.
“I know it might turn out to be a fast race but I will just go with my pace. It is from my performance in London that I will be able to gauge where I stand in the marathon,” said Masai, who hails from Kapsokwony in Mount Elgon.
Masai’s dream is to represent Kenya at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Ï know it’s a tall order since my colleagues will also be vying for positions,” Masai, who warmed up for London Marathon with a fourth place finish at Lisbon Half Marathon in Personal Best 1:08:50 on March 17 in Portugal, said.
Masai, who runs under the Pace Sports Management, has been training with a group of male upcoming athletes in Kaptagat but without a coach.
She is younger sister of Moses Ndiema Masai, who won 5,000m and 1,0000 metres races at the African Junior Championships. Her younger siblings Dennis, Ndiema and Magdaline are also runners.
Her father, John Barasa Masai, is also a former athlete, while legendary Kenyan athlete Ben Jipcho is her distant uncle.
Speaking to Nation Sport before leaving for London early this week, the athlete said her training went well and that she will be keen to follow in the footsteps of her more experienced compatriots.
“I will be battling it out with champions who have been on the field for a long period more than me. It is my second marathon since I shifted to road running, but if my body reacts well, I will go for the prize,” said Masai. Masai trains with world-beaters, among them reigning London Marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge and World Half Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
“I have been training in Kaptagat, Elgeyo Marakwet County with the Global Sports Communications, and they have really inspired me ahead of the major race,” said Masai.
She has had an excellent career, making the transition from from junior to senior in cross country before moving to track races.