On the afternoon of Wednesday 22 April, we were joined in the Virgin Money London Marathon headquarters by the elite women: Mary Keitany, Priscah Jeptoo, Florence Kiplagat, Edna Kiplagat and Aselefech Mergia. Between them, the women have 5 London Marathon wins, the female half marathon world record and the female 20k world record. We spoke to them about training, family life and Paula Radcliffe’s swan song.
Both Edna Kiplagat and Jeptoo had injuries last year. Edna began her training late due to injury, though that didn’t stop her winning the race with a time of 2:20:21, and Jeptoo had to drop out midway through the race with a leg injury. Both agree that this year they’re feeling fit and ready to perform, as does Keitany who is undefeated on the course and is returning after a two year gap. Keitany is aiming to become the fourth woman to win the London Marathon three times.
The woman are all mothers, with Mergia giving birth just a year and a half ago and then winning the Dubai marathon on her return to running – her third time winning the event. Aselefech says that starting a family is something female athletes have to consider – adding that it was very difficult coming back after childbirth, she had put on weight that was tough to shift, but after 6 months of preparation she was delighted to win the Dubai marathon. Edna has what sounds like the ideal family situation for such a talented runner, her husband is her coach! She says that not only does this mean her training is tailored because he knows her so well, but she adds “whatever I need, he will support me, when I am down, he’s there to lift me up“.
When talk turned to this year’s competition, the women were asked whether the fact that they train together makes a difference to their competing, does being friends make the battle less fierce? Keitany answered very concisely; “a race is a race and we all want to win“. Mergia was asked if she’d like to break a record this year. She replied she’d like to but it will be hard – apart from the Ethiopia record, about which she said “that will be easy!“.
This year will see Paula Radcliffe, the current female marathon world record holder, run her last marathon. When asked about Paula, the women were united in their admiration for her. Edna said that Paula “runs with no fear” and that she is “very inspirational to marathon runners, especially women“. Florence Kiplagat went as far as to say “I wish she was running wit us this year. She should be pacing us!” [Paula will not be running with the elite runners but with the club runners].
Florence’s final point on the subject was when the women were asked if any of them will be aiming for Paula’s world record of 2:15:25, set in the 2003 London Marathon, to which Florence laughed and said “Not if it’s raining!“