Sean WallaceJones for IAAF
15 April - Marathon world best performance holder with 2:20:47 in Rotterdam last year, Kenyas Tegla Loroupe is at the top of her form as the final countdown to Sundays Rotterdam Marathon starts.
The last six weeks have been tough, with a punishing training schedule that has Loroupe on the track or out running roads or in the forests surrounding her Detmold (GER) base, ten times a week; in addition to wins in the Lisbon half marathon (67:53) and in 10km races in Paderborn (31;23) and Brunssum (31:53).
"Ive been doing speed-work for the past few days," she said yesterday, before heading off to town and the local McDonalds. "The hamburger is really for Volker (Wagner), my coach. Im not keen on them and Id really be up to 41 kilos by Friday if I ate that."
Her current weight? "Im about 39 kilos at the moment, but that will go up a bit before the race, as Im not working so much now."
Not working so much, means that she is doing less that the 150+ kilometres she runs during the "easy" long running period of her training programme. During this phase, she runs four times a week for 2-2 ¼ hrs daily at her normal pace of between 3 minutes 40 and 4:00 per kilometre and another three days for an hour and three-quarters at the same pace.
The speed-work sessions are split between days when she will make four 6km runs, including hill work, at an average 3:20-3:30 pace; five 3km runs in the forest at around 3:20/km; 10 two kilometre runs at around 6:10-6:40, resting 30-40 seconds between runs; 20x 1000m on the track at a pace of 3:15, resting half a minute between each and, finally, 25x 400m in 72-75 seconds, with a twenty to thirty second break between circuits.
The results are clear: she is considerably stronger and faster than at this time last year, making a new record mark very much on the cards in Rotterdam.
"Dont say a time," she laughs. "I dont want to disappoint you, but I think I can do still better than 2:20, if everything goes OK and there is not too much wind!"
For the wind could be Loroupes greatest adversary in Rotterdam. The course is fast and flat and lends itself to a record pace, but there are stretches where the wind can become an icy barrier for the runners to battle through.
"Rotterdam is a good course," says Volker Wagner, Loroupes coach and mentor, "but it can be really difficult when the wind is strong. In this respect, Berlin may well be an easier course."
Besides the weather, Loroupes strongest challenge could come from her friend and training partner Susan Chepkemei.
"Susan does not have so much experience yet," says Wagner, "but she is strong. If something happens and Tegla is not as strong as expected, then Susan will have a chance and they will fight to win the race. That is what the sport is all about.
"In the meantime they are both happy to be in the race together. They each have their own plan, according to the time they will try to run."
And after Rotterdam?
"Tegla will run some road races and also more on the track, if people do not let her down. Some meet directors think that she is just a marathon runner and do not realise her potential on the track.
"Her other big target for this year will be a gold medal in Seville and we will be concentrating on preparations for the 10,000 metres there."
Another of Wagners Kenyan female stars, Joyce Chepchumba, will be running in London rather than Rotterdam on Sunday and is among the favourites for Londons bookmakers.
"Joyce is in very good shape; even better than when she won Chicago last year (2:23:57). I think that her chances are good," Wagner says. "It is a pity that some good runners are out, because the race could be on a better level. Now it will be a lot more tactical.
"After Elana Meyers good performance in the half marathon, she is probably the favourite, but I hope that Joyce will be good for another surprise."
The mens race in Rotterdam could well be a Spanish affair.
Heading the rankings for the race, are Fabian Roncero and Alejandro Gomez, with compatriot Julio Rey also on excellent form at the moment. The Spanish trio are among eleven runners engaged in Rotterdam who have gone under 2:10 and are likely to face their strongest competition from Kenyan duo Joseph Kahugu and Simon Lopuyet.