Edna Kiplagat winning in a course record at the 2014 Great Scottish Run (© organisers)
Two IAAF World Championships title, one elusive Olympic gold. Ten months out from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Edna Kiplagat is ready to throw everything at the marathon medal she covets and the countdown starts at the Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run in Glasgow on Sunday (4).
The 35-year-old Kenyan will defend her title at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race after the shortest of breaks in the wake of her failed attempt to make it three world championship golds in a row as she came fifth in Beijing in August.
After seeing off previous winner and compatriot Caroline Kilel 12 months ago to take victory in a course record time of 1:07:57, Kiplagat has returned – refreshed, if not entirely recovered – from her exhausting efforts in China and ready to contest the half marathon in Scotland’s largest city.
“I took two weeks break after Beijing and then slowly got back into it,” she said. “I just spent time playing with my kids and doing small chores at home.
“After the season, my body was still tired but I’ve tried this year to do work outs to help me recover. Compared to last year, I don’t feel as recovered but I’ve tried to focus on strength exercises. And I will give it my best on Sunday.”
Kilel has also returned to the city where she won silver on the track over 10000m at 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The expected duel illustrates the strength in depth of the African nation on the roads, as well as track, and it could be a precursor for what promises to be an intense battle to merely earn be selected for the Olympic Games.
“It’s difficult to get that chance (to compete for Kenya at the Olympics,” Kiplagat admitted on Friday, who finished a disappointing 20th at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the summer between her two world championships wins.
“This year didn’t go well. I didn’t run well at London Marathon. I tried at the world championships. But this time I need to prepare well and then plan for 2015 so I can get at least one race before selection.
“That’s my plan: to be able to run a good marathon because it’s so difficult in Kenya. They select the best, not just on time; but whoever goes will need a fast time.”
Domestic hopes in Glasgow will focus on Gemma Steel, who was recently the runner-up at the Great North Run over the border in the English city of Gateshead, as well as 2012 European 10000m champion Jo Pavey, who will be having her first outing in a half marathon since 2012.
Pavey targeting her fifth Olympic appearance
Aged 41, the Briton sat out much of this past summer’s track season to concentrate on Rio and it is a strategy, she hopes, that will allow her to sign off with a fifth Olympic Games appearance of her career.
“I thought I would be retired by now so it is a real bonus to still be thinking about competing,” said Pavey.
“Rio is such a massive target for me, to try to make a fifth Olympics. I just felt this summer with the balance of having two young children and last year being such a busy championship year I just felt like it was the right decision.
“Now it is really nice, focusing on these autumn road races, it is a bit nerve wracking. Normally I am really sharp from the track but I have had to do it this time as if it was the start of the season it feels like. I have to get back out there and it is what I need.”
Sara Moriera from Portugal, who finished third in last year’s New York Marathon and Doris Changeiywo, runner-up in the 2014 Great Birmingham Run, are also likely to also feature.
Commonwealth 10,000m champion Moses Kipsiro heads the men’s field in Glasgow with the Ugandan, now 29, looking for his own steady build-up to Rio, eight years after he stood on a global podium with a 5000m bronze medal around his neck at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in Osaka.
“The Olympics is a goal for me,” he said. “If I have a good winter, I will push for it.”
Despite the late withdrawal of marathon world record holder Dennis Kimetto, a Kenyan push for victory remains a possibility with Japhet Korir, the 2013 IAAF world cross country champion, and Emmanuel Bett in the field, along with Australia’s Collis Birmingham.
Brothers and Great Britain internationals Callum and Derek Hawkins spearhead the home challenge.
Mark Woods for IAAF