Lornah Kiplagat, a portrait of a World champion - Debrecen 2006 (© Getty Images)
Lornah Kiplagat believes she is ready to defend her women’s race title at the 2nd IAAF World Road Running Championships which gets underway at 1200hrs (GMT +2hrs) on Sunday 14 October in the north east Italian city of Udine.
Kiplagat after winning the World Cross Country title in March is aiming to return to championship action with another global victory in the second staging of the World Road Running Champs. This year she competes over the half marathon distance after a pulsating success when taking the World title over 20km with a World record display 12 months ago.
The Kenyan-born star, who has competed in the colours of the Netherlands after marrying her coach Pieter Langerhorst four years ago, produced a breathtaking win Debrecen 2006.
Kiplagat who had previously held the 20km World record (at the time a World Best – 63:54 in 2001), regained that accolade from Paula Radcliffe with a time of 63:21 in Debrecen last autumn, five seconds faster than the Briton achieved en route to winning the 2001 World Half Marathon crown.
The performance saw her narrowly flatten the threat of Constantina Tomecsu, who set a new European figure two just two seconds behind, with Rita Jeptoo running a Kenyan record of 63:47 in third place.
Tomescu, the last IAAF World Half Marathon champion after the discontinuance of that event in 2005, will be an absentee from the Romanian team on this occasion, as will be Jeptoo.
Chepkemei heads Kenyan challenge
But Kenya aiming to retain their team title will include a posse more than capable of challenging Kiplagat's supremacy although she will start pre-race favourite.
Mary Jepkosgei Keitany with two fast half marathon victories under her belt this year, the latter when winning in Lille with a mark of 68:43 at the beginning of September, will be a threat.
So too will be Pamela Chepchumba, the Philadelphia and Azpeita victor, plus Everline Kemunto Kimwei, third in both Sapporo when clocking 69:32 and earlier in Matsue. Alice Timbilil who was beaten by just 11sec by her fellow countrywoman in the USA race, could also play a major part, but Kiplagat may feel the biggest challenge will come from Susan Chepkemei.
Returning from injury Chepkemei has diligently focused on the World Road Running Champs rather than chasing success and money on the international circuit.
Chepkemei, 15 months younger than 33-year-old Kiplagat, also has the massive incentive after having three-times won silver at the World Half Marathon Championships, of now finally clinching the gold medal in its new style format.
Ethiopia will be relying on national 20km champion Bezunesh Bekele to lead their challenge in the team stakes where they finished just under three minutes behind Kenya in Hungary and only 10 seconds ahead of Japan.
The Japanese field a strong looking squad, led by Chisato Osaki who ran 69:25 to win in Matsue in March as do the United States led by Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medallist. Kastor's warm-up last Monday (8 Oct) saw her claim a fifth US title for the year when clocking 32:01 for 10km at their national championships in Boston.
Europe's challenge will be be headed by Romania's Lidia Simon, the Russian trio of Alina Ivanova, Liliya Shobukhova and Irina Timofeyeva, while Serbia's Olivera Jevtic cannot be overlooked at this level of competition.
Madai Perez is a late entry for Mexico and the 70:36 half marathoner with a best of 2:22:59 for the full distance, and so will also be a contender.
Kiplagat - Back from injury
Kiplagat however is confident of taking the race in her stride and is buoyed by winning so brilliantly a year ago, and is determined to keep the title in Dutch hands. Her comeback from a calf injury sustained in May which caused her to withdraw from the World Championships in Osaka, went off smoothly, with a solid victory in Utrecht last weekend.
Langerhorst said: "She ran very well and won in 32:05. At half way she was leading at 15:54 and she had no problem at all. She feels very strong and this just confirms her intentions and commitment to succeed.”
"She is now ready for the World Road Running Championships," said the relieved manager/coach and not least of all, dedicated husband.
Kiplagat delighted she has been given the all clear, is adopting the same tactical approach which her earned her major successes in both Debrecen and at the World Cross in Mombasa.
"To be honest, I have no idea who is running,” said Kiplagat. “I can't change the field and second - I just want to run my own race. I am sure the best athletes will be there but I have trained very hard for this event. I have no influence on other athletes so I just see what will happen in the race."
Kiplagat insisted: "I have ran now two times 66 and one time a low 67 low, so I feel the half is my distance just like the 20km. I am looking forward to defending my title and have a good feeling. I just hope for a good competition and for a good promotion of the sport."
Dave Martin – PA International – for the IAAF
Women's race - Athlete Biographies: Udine 2007Click here for the PDF version of latest entry list