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Who can stop Kipchoge from winning fourth London marathon title

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Can Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge be beaten? It has been the question in the past six years as the Kenyan has obliterated his rivals in 11 races.

On Sunday, along the streets of London, marathon fans will keenly watch as the mighty Kenyan goes to the start line for his first competitive outing since shattering the marathon world record seven months ago.

The answer, on paper at least, is a resounding ‘no’. Kipchoge’s winning time of 2:01:39 in Berlin in September 2018 carved 78 seconds out of the previous world mark, removing any doubt that he is the greatest marathon runner of all time.

Add to Kipchoge’s intimidating 11 wins out of 12, which includes the 2016 Olympic title and three victories in London, Sunday’s race begins to sound like a foregone conclusion.

Not even the presence of a fast-improving Mo Farah of Britain, who is now world No. 7 and fresh from his maiden marathon victory in Chicago, world No. 4 and last year’s London runner-up Shura Kitata of Ethiopia, or the only man to beat Kipchoge in marathon Wilson Kipsang of Kenya, seem to suggest any realistic scenario other than a Kipchoge triumph in The Mall.

But Kipchoge, the World Athlete of the Year and world number one in the marathon, is not buying it.

Although he is more than happy with his pre-race preparations at home in Kenya, he is far too humble to believe in his own invincibility, insisting his philosophy in life is not to dwell on past achievements but focus on the future.

"Sport is about competition and anybody can be beaten," he said.

"Mo Farah can beat me and the others can beat me.

"The best thing is if you just accept this.

"That is the only way to enjoy the sport."

"It’s good to forget what you have achieved and concentrate on what you want.

"So, what I have achieved in the past is different with what I want on Sunday.

"I want to make sure that I win, to show that all that I have been doing in the previous years comes out of the humbleness and the hard work in training," he added.

Despite the other candidates, it is Kipchoge’s quest to become the first man to win four London titles that has set pulses racing ahead of this year’s event, not least because of the potential of a mouth-watering head-to-head with London-raised Farah.

His breakthrough Chicago Marathon win six months ago in a European record time of 2:05:11 places him on an upward trajectory as he approaches only his fourth race over 42km.

He pitched his camp in Ethiopia to prepare for London.

"Marathon is completely different with the track and since racing against Eliud in London last year, having learned the hard way, I believe that I’ve learned a lot," Farah said.

"With each race you do get better.

"You get a bit more experience.

"After winning in Chicago, training has gone well and I’m just enjoying it."

Kipchoge’s three previous London wins have come in 2:04:42 in 2015, a course record of 2:03:05 in 2016 and 2:04:17 in 2018.

In fact, no fewer than seven athletes in Sunday’s field have a superior personal best to Farah, including Kenya’s former world record holder Wilson Kipsang and five Ethiopian athletes.

Among the Ethiopian contingent, Kitata finished 92 seconds ahead of Farah to take second place in last year’s London race by sticking to Kipchoge’s coat tails until three miles to go.

He is far from fazed by Sunday’s rematch.

"I will try to beat Eliud this year," said 22-year-old Kitata, who is 12 years younger than Kipchoge.

"Last year I ran side-by-side with him, but this time I won’t just follow him.

"This year, God help me, I will beat him," he added.


Top four women take on London marathon course

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Four Kenyan women led by defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot, Mary Keitany, Brigid Kosgei and Gladys Cherono agree that there is no clear favorite among them when they line up on Sunday for the London marathon.

The four current major marathon champions in the line-up - Cheruiyot (London), Keitany (New York), Kosgei (Chicago) and Cherono (Berlin) - have all but one request to make Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

That journey starts in London on Sunday.

However, the quartet are full of mutual admiration and would let their legs do the talking on Sunday.

"We are all sisters, some training together and we love each other.

"Marathon is an individual sport and we will try to play by the rule and see the strongest pull away.

"But there is the challenge from Ethiopia and all other runners, we can’t allow complacency creep in our minds," Cheruiyot said on Friday.

Cheruiyot, world number two in marathon, ran a perfectly judged race in London last year to overtake Keitany, who paid the price for running with male pacemakers in the opening half as she went in pursuit of Paula Radcliffe’s world record of 2:15:25. She eventually faded to a weary fifth.

"I am here to win and I don’t care who is in the race.

"I run my own race as Vivian and the rest have their own strategy," Cheruiyot said.

Keitany, who turned the tables on Cheruiyot by winning her fourth New York title in November and is currently ranked world 23, is not obsessing about the clock this time and has her eyes set on equaling Norwegian Ingrid Kristiansen’s record of four London victories.

Cheruiyot is a relative marathon novice following a glittering career on the track and feels there is plenty of room for improvement.

Having lowered her personal best at the Lisbon Half Marathon in March, she sees no reason why she cannot improve on her marathon best of 2:18:31, which she clocked in London a year ago.

"My shape is better than last year and if the weather is good, I know I’m going to run my personal best," she said.

"In Lisbon it was hard because I was all alone pushing the fast pace.

"In London we are happy to have pacesetters.

"That course record can be beaten."

Cherono, world No. 13, completed a hat-trick of Berlin victories last year with a personal best of 2:18:11.

She is also confident about her shape and believes the women’s world record of 2:17:01, set by Keitany in London two years ago, could well come under threat on Sunday if the weather behaves.

Kosgei, world No. 4 and last year’s runner-up, is the fourth quickest in the field after clocking 2:18:35 to win in Chicago.

She has also shown outstanding half-marathon form in recent months, smashing her personal best in Houston and then lowering it further in Bahrain.

She has chalked up five victories and three runner-up spots in her nine marathons to date and could well be one to watch.

With sub-2:20 Ethiopians Roza Dereje and Birhane Dibaba also in contention, the race looks wide open.

At 25, Kosgei holds the future of women marathon in Kenya, will she prevail against her seniors in London? Only the race on Sunday tells the answer.


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