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Former winner Kiplagat back in action
for Chicago Marathon conquest   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Two-time Chicago Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat of Kenya will take on compatriot Brigid Kosgei as she eyes a third win in the USA city on Sunday.

Kiplagat, a former world half marathon record holder, has struggled to regain fitness after she suffered career threatening muscle cramping in last year’s Chicago Marathon race.

Kiplagat dropped out of the race after 25km mark, citing a muscular injury that ultimately prevented her from defending her Barcelona Half Marathon title in March.

She has not competed in 2018, so this year’s race in Chicago will mark her return to competition.

“I have two battles to fight. The obvious one against other athletes to win in Chicago and the personal fight inside me on whether I am back to my best and capable of racing at the top level again,” Kiplagat said in Nairobi as she jetted out to USA.

Kiplagat is the 19th fastest woman in history over the marathon distance with a personal best of 2:19:44 from Berlin in 2011.

She has adopted an aggressive front-running style that saw her win in Chicago in 2:21:32 two years ago, which was the thirteenth fastest female time in Chicago Marathon history (now the 16th fastest time) and the fifth fastest time run in 2016.

However, she will face stiff challenge from Kosgei, who held on to clinch silver medal behind eventual winner Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia last year.

There is also two-time podium finisher Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) in a women’s list that has nine runners, who have run 2:25:00 or faster.

“My focus on Sunday is to finish in first position,” said Kiplagat. “But I have been out for long and finishing is important for me.”



Champ Kirui under no pressure to recapture Chicago marathon title

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Teammates and training partners Geoffrey Kamworor and Abel Kirui have both won the world marathon championships but there will be a wide rift between the two when they line up at the Chicago marathon on Sunday.

The two lead a battery of Kenyan road runners as they lay siege on the American city eyeing to improve on their personal best times and conquer the great Chicago course.

“It’s just now down to days to the Chicago marathon and though we are friends with Geoffrey and teammates, each must strive to win the race,” said Kirui, who will be running his third Chicago marathon after winning in 2016 and finishing second last year.

Kirui, a former Olympic silver medalist, has had a splendid marathon career since his debut in Berlin back in 2006 where he placed ninth in 2:17:47.

He has twice been crowned the world champion and also picked up wins in Vienna and Chicago.

Last year, Kirui returned to Chicago to defend his title but had to settle for second position, some 28 seconds behind winner American Galen Rupp.

In 2018, the 36-year-old Abel is back for his third successive appearance in the “Windy City”, so what is it he loves about the event?

“I think there are a lot of factors,” he says. “The course is very good and Chicago is just a clean environment with the race set in a beautiful city. I never feel any pressure in Chicago. I have had no injuries, which was totally different to last year, and I am very much hoping to be in the fight.”

Kenya has always had a good performance in the men’s race in Chicago. Save for last year, Kenyans have ruled the Chicago marathon course.

In 2013 former world record holder Dennis Kimetto was the champion. A year later, it was Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge, who has gone on to set a new world record in Berlin at 2:01.39.

In 2015, it was Dickson Chumba who triumphed while in 2016, Kirui ruled the roost before Rupp disrupted the trend.

But the Kenyan runners are keen to restore their dominance in the race this year and are looking forward to fast time to cement their win.

Alongside Kirui, Kenya will also have Choge, Kenneth Kipkemoi, Stephen Sambu while Paris champion Paul Lonyangata has pulled out with an injury.

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