London Marathon champion Vivian Cheruiyot has set his sights on winning back-to-back titles when the race takes place this weekend on the streets of the English capital well aware that she will face stiff competition for the many elite athletes who will line up for Sunday’s race.
New York Marathon champion Mary Keitany, Berlin Marathon champion Gladys Cherono, Chicago Marathon champion Brigid Kosgei who are all sub-2 hours, 19 minutes athletes and debutant Linet Masai are all seeking the coveted crown.
For the last three months, Cheruiyot whose expectation is to retain her title has been preparing for the battle and Nation Sport caught up with her at the Moi University - Annex Campus in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County during one of her speed work sessions.
“I have done good preparations and my target is to retain my title and also lower my personal best. I have been doing my long runs in Kaptagat, Elgeyo Marakwet County which is a good place to train,” said Cheruiyot.
The 5,000m Olympic champion said that the field looks tough but is confident in her preparations.
“I normally run in any competition with myself because I believe in my training which was injury free. The field is tough because the athletes we are competing with are champions,” she added.
Last year the athlete pulled a surprise after coming from behind to win the race when the heat took its toll on the leading pack.
“It was sweet victory for me last year and I even enjoyed the temperatures because I’m not comfortable running in cold weather. I’m looking forward to conducive weather on Sunday,” the athlete opined.
Keitany who has a personal best time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and one second set in 2017 is expected to give Cheruiyot a hard time as she seeks to defend her title.
The two athletes met at last year’s New York Marathon where Mary Keitany reigned supreme to gain sweet revenge by beating Cheruiyot to second place.
In March, Cheruiyot - who is fondly referred to as ‘pocket rocket’ - shattered the Lisbon Half Marathon course record after winning in one hour, six minutes and 34 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Zeineba Yimer while Sandrafelis Chebet finished third.
“The Lisbon Half Marathon gave me an opportunity to fine tune my training ahead of London. I came back home to finalise on my training and I'm now good to go,” said the 2011 world 5, 000m and 10,000m world champion.
Cheruiyot, who transitioned to marathon races in 2017, is also eyeing to represent the country in Olympic Games in Tokyo Japan next year.
Kenyan athletes will face stiff competition from Ethiopians Roza Dereje (2:19:17), Birhane Dibaba (2:19:51) and Tadelech Bekele (2:21:40).
Tirunesh Dibaba pulled out of the race when she announced on her social media pages that she is expecting a baby and would not be competing on Sunday.
London elite women list
Vivian Cheruiyot - Kenya
Birhane Dibaba - Ethiopia
Mary Keitany - Kenya
Tadelech Bekele - Ethiopia
Gladys Cherono - Kenya
Haftamnesh Tesfay - Ethiopia