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London Marathon 2015 Elite Race Preview - Women

by Elite Running Coach
Tuesday 21st April 2015
Tags  Mary Keitany   |   Edna Kiplagat   |   Florence Kiplagat   |   Priscah Jeptoo   |   Aselefech Mergia

Gavin Smith of Elite Running Coach (www.eliterunningcoach.com) provides some in-depth information on the women's elite field, that has been lined up for the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon

Click here to read Gavin's preview of the men's field

Initially this race was being billed as an all Kenyan affair between arguably the top four in the world, and the marketing campaign from the organisers was based around the ‘Fantastic Four’ of Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat, Florence Kiplagat and Priscah Jeptoo.

Aselefech Mergia

But the genuine contenders here go beyond the ‘Fantastic Four’ with three strong Ethiopians who are lead by Aselefech Mergia.  Mergia was one of the hottest properties in women’s marathon running a few years ago but appeared to have been past her best. She returned to top form in January this year when winning the Dubai Marathon (for the third time) in a world class time of 2hr 20:02 and was swiftly added to the London field. Now coached by my former mentor and colleague Renato Canova, I expect Mergia to put up a strong challenge against the more favoured Kenyan’s.

Back to the Fantastic Four - who are they and do they deserve that title? Yes, they certainly do. A case could be made for each of these ladies being a legitimate favourite to win and the fact that at least one of them won’t even make the podium is a testament to the strength of the field as well as the prestige (and financial clout) that the London Marathon have. These four women would be big favourites if they had gone to any other marathon in the world, but instead we have the privilege of watching them go head to head on the streets of London.

A quick run down of each:

Mary Keitany

Mary, known in Kenya as ‘Mama Jared’ after her first born child,  has an almost flawless marathon record with wins in London (twice) and New York already to her name, she finished a surprising 4th in the London Olympic Games before taking maternity leave to have her second child. She proved that she has come back from that break stronger than ever with a dominating performance to win the New York City Marathon last November. She comes into the race on the back of a very strong win in the RAK Half Marathon in February in 66.02.

Mary is an aggressive runner who will look to push a fast pace, she often runs with a big negative split so look for her to start making moves just beyond the half way point.
Mary is coached by Gabrielle Nicola and trains in Iten

Edna Kiplagat

Edna is the defending champion in London and also the current (double) World Champion in the marathon. Last year she won a very closely fought battle with her namesake Florence and she will be looking to repeat her success of last year.  Edna’s form coming in is unknown and she missed her planned tune up race in the Prague Half Marathon last month after losing her passport leaving her stranded in Kenya.

Edna is coached by her husband Gilbert and trains in Iten.

Florence Kiplagat

Florence comes into the race for the second successive year having recently beaten the World Half Marathon record in Barcelona. Last year she hung on until the very last stages of the race before being out run in the finish by Edna Kiplagat and had to settle for second place.

Her coach Renato Canova revealed that the Half Marathon World Record was always the primary target for Florence in 2014 and that as a result they had focused heavily on speed work meaning she came into London short of endurance and ultimately Edna was the stronger runner. This year they have reported that the world record in the half marathon came as a surprise to them both and she has been fully focused on the London race.
Florence has tasted marathon success twice in Berlin and has also won the World titles at Half Marathon and Cross Country.

With the 65.09 HM WR Florence’s strength is clearly her speed and she will be hoping that on this occasion she also has the strength and endurance to last the distance. Florence’s weakness is her muscular strength (I should know as it was my job to try and help her improve this in 2012 when she was coming back from a stress fracture) and unless this has continued to improve she may find herself struggling with muscular fatigue in the latter stages of the race.

Florence’s coach Renato Canova has said that this race will be used to judge once and for all whether Florence should focus her energies on the Marathon or the 10000m as we head towards the Rio Olympics, she is one athlete who must wish that the Half Marathon was an Olympic event.

Florence is coached by Renato Canova and trains in Iten.

Priscah Jeptoo

Priscah Jeptoo (pronounced more like ‘Jep-tour’) is probably the least known of the big four despite having won both London and and New York Marathons in 2013. She comes in relatively under the media radar again. She was the Olympic Silver Medalist in London 2012 and is known for her distinctive knock kneed running style. She, like Mary, likes to run fast second halves in marathon races so if the pace is conservative early on then we could be in for a very fast finish this year.

Last year the lead women simply ignored the pacemakers and went out at a pedestrian pace in the opening few miles and if this happens again this year it may play into Priscah’s hands.

Priscah is coached by Claudio Berardelli in Kapsabet.

If the race is fast (inside 2hours 20 pace through the first half) then don’t be surprised if a lesser fancied or slower on paper athlete comes through the field to pick up a minor placing. With the depth of the field, I don’t think anyone who isn’t with the lead pack can win the race outright. But as some begin to pay the price for going for gold, gaps will open and a fast finisher coming from the second pack can pick off a lot of places in the final few kms.


My prediction:
1st Mary Kietany
2nd Florence Kiplagat
3rd Aselefech Mergia

One to watch:
Jemima Sumgong


British Interest:

Sonia Samuels who has a PB of 2hours 30:56 will be looking to break the 2hours 30barrier and also to win the first British finisher title. Her main competition could come from Emma Stepto, the 45 year old is in the form of her life and will look to once again improve her PB which was set last year in Frankfurt.

Paula Radcliffe will make her swan song appearance at the London marathon from the mass start and although this means she will not be eligible for the elite places her time is still likely be amongst the fastest British women’s times.

About Gavin

Gavin Smith is a Running Coach who coaches a group of elite British runners including 2012 Olympian Lee Merrien and GB International John Beattie. He also runs an online coaching service for ambitious runners of all levels which can be found at www.eliterunningcoach.com. Previously Gavin coached in Kenya, where from 2011 - 13 he was assistant coach to Renato Canova and athletes he coached included 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Abel Kirui and World Half Marathon Record Holder Florence Kiplagat. 


About The Author

Elite Running Coach

To read more from Gavin and John please visit www.eliterunningcoach.com where they host their performance running blogs and race reports. 

John is a GB international athlete having competed in the 10000m in the Commonwealth Games, as well as World and European XC Championships. He has a Marathon PB of 2hr 16 finishing as second British runner at the 2012 London Marathon.
Gavin has coached both British and Kenyan elite runners and was Assistant Coach to famed Renato Canova from 2011-2013 where he helped coach Abel Kirui to London Olympic Silver Medal. He coached Gladys Kipkemoi to the World Championships in 2013 and is the coach to John Beattie and fellow British elite runner Chris Powner.


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