5000m queen Cheruiyot out to rule London Marathon
Olympic 5000 metres champion Vivian Cheruiyot, one of Kenya’s most distinguished runners, revealed on Wednesday that she will never run another track race – but the 34-year-old said today she is determined to go out and beat the world again, this time on the roads, as she prepares for her second run in the Virgin Money London Marathon.
Cheruiyot admits that as a novice marathoner, she will have her work cut out in Sunday’s race as she attempts to derail the much-anticipated duel, set to be run at a scorching, potentially world-record pace, between her compatriot Mary Keitany and Ethiopian great Tirunesh Dibaba.
Yet she reckons she is learning fast with her eyes set on adding the 2020 Olympic marathon gold to the twelve-and-a-half lap title she won in Rio – and if the favourites burn out on what is expected to be a warm day on Sunday, she believes nobody should count her out.
“Oh, it’s possible I could still win,” she laughed, as her husband, the former runner Moses Kiplagat, played with their four-year-old son Allan nearby. “The marathon is hard but everything is possible, I think, if you train and train hard.
Certainly, it is unlikely that either Keitany or Dibaba would be rash enough to discount the pedigree of this four-time world track champion and former world cross country gold medallist.
“After the 5000 metres in Rio, I decided I would do more track races. Now, I do miss them. I’d always raced on the track and the 5000m was my favourite, but I’m done with the track and I’ll never go back,” said Cheruiyot, who smiles that she also misses those halcyon days of 50 miles a week workload compared to her current mileage of 110.
“But it’s good that I’m getting better slowly on the roads. I’m learning and after I’ve had a few more marathons and I’m getting used to them, I’ll be ready to go for the 2020 Olympic Marathon in Tokyo. I think I’ll be in a position to challenge then.”
Sunday will be only her third marathon after she made an impressive debut in London last year, finishing fourth in 2 hours 23 minutes 50 seconds, and followed up with her first marathon victory in Frankfurt last October in 2:23:50, which she is sure would have been quicker if not for the windy conditions.
“I’m still nervous but I learned a lot in London last year and I hope to run well on Sunday. Since Frankfurt, I’ve had some more tips from other people and I’ve trained a bit harder than last year. My aim is to set a new personal best.”
She has no plans, though, to track either Keitany or Dibaba should they cut out at world record pace. “No, no, if they’re going to run 66 minutes, I can’t keep up with that,” she said. “Because they’re going for the world record, I can’t be there with them but I will go at my pace and we’ll see what happens to them.”
Cheruiyot seemed to have suffered a scare last month when forced to pull out during the New York half-marathon with a breathing problem in the cold weather but she was adamant: “I don’t have any worries at all about Sunday.”
She will be mightily glad to enjoy the predicted warm weather, especially after watching the wretched cold and windy conditions the racers faced at the Boston Marathon on Monday.
“I looked at the weather there and had the feeling that it was me who was running. It was really terrible - I was feeling for them all. If I’d been there, I wouldn’t even have finished 5km!”
Others in a stellar field, like Kenyan-born world champion Rose Chelimo, who won the world title for her adopted Bahrain in London last August, also sound grateful that there should be no Boston-like torment on Sunday.
It is possible, she accepts, that she would have to run nearly 10 minutes quicker than the 2:27:11 she clocked for gold in the World Championships if she wants to be in the shake-up on Sunday.
“The pace was not too high then, compared to this one with pacemakers,” she said, adding that she hoped to eclipse the lifetime best of 2:22:51 she set when finishing second in Boston last year. “It’ll need a lot of tactics, though, because the field is very tough.”