Elite women cite training limits in London Marathon buildup

Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei isn’t expecting to lower her world record in Sunday’s London Marathon, not with her training limited by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kosgei and challenger Ruth Chepngetich said Thursday that pandemic restrictions in Kenya prevented them from training in groups for long periods.

“It affected most of us in Kenya,” the 26-year-old Kosgei said.

Kosgei topped her London victory last year by winning the Chicago Marathon in a world record time of 2 hours, 14 minutes, 4 seconds.

“It’s not like in Chicago, but I will try my best,” she said, declining to offer predictions of a time. “Due to this pandemic, I cannot say I will run this and this. We didn’t do a lot of training, enough, like last year.”

The London Marathon has been reduced to elite runners only and will have no spectators because of the pandemic. Tokyo was the only other World Marathon Major to be held in 2020 after Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York all canceled.

Athletes will compete on a 26.2-mile (42.2 kilometer) closed-loop course consisting of 19.6 laps clockwise around St. James’ Park. The traditional course along the River Thames was scrapped in order to create a biosecure event.

Chepngetich echoed her Kenyan teammate’s concerns about training.

“When this pandemic of coronavirus arrived to Kenya, we were very disappointed because our training was hindered,” she said. “Everyone goes to his home to train alone. Everyone was training in isolation, alone.”

The 26-year-old Chepngetich won the world championship title last year in Doha on a similarly looped course, but Kosgei said it will be a new experience.

“For me,” Kosgei said, “I think it will be difficult to run in a loop because I’ve never been running in a loop, so I will try my best on Sunday.”

Kosgei and Chepngetich spoke from a hotel reserved for elite marathoners.

“I am listening to some music and I am reading the Bible most of the time when I am free,” Chepngetich said of life inside the biosecure bubble.

Virus testing was conducted before athletes left for London and after they arrived. There’s another test on Friday. Degitu Azimeraw, who won the 2019 Amsterdam Marathon, withdrew after she tested positive in Ethiopia.

Kosgei said she received congratulations from Paula Radcliffe after breaking the Briton’s world record in Chicago last October. Radcliffe had held the record for 16 years. She said she sensed that Radcliffe was disappointed “because her record was gone.”

Kosgei also downplayed criticism of shoe technology.

“It’s not the shoes,” she said. “It’s just me who can run. For me, it’s just my body which moves, it’s not the shoes.”

For the men, Kenyan and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:39) will try to hold off Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia. Bekele won the 2019 Berlin Marathon in a time that was only 2 seconds off Kipchoge’s world record set in Berlin in 2018.

Manuela Schär and David Weir will feature in the wheelchair events.

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