2012 Women's Olympic Marathon Preview: Mary Keitany Takes On The Greatest Women's Marathon Field Ever Assembled

Plus - Does Shalane Flanagan Have A Chance For A Medal?

*Race Time 6:00 AM ET Sunday

By LetsRun.com
July 31, 2012

Even with the recent withdrawal of world record holder Paula Radcliffe, the 2012 Olympic women's marathon field is the greatest women's marathon field assembled in history as the race still features seven of the 17 women in history who have gone sub-2:20.

And of those seven, only one of them is still not pretty much in her prime, as six of the seven have run their PR in the last calendar year (the lone sub-2:20 performer past her prime is 39-year-old Irina Mikitenko of Germany, who broke 2:20 in 2008). Compare that to 2008, when zero women had gone sub-2:20 during the qualifying window.

Take a look at the "Magnificent 6":

Rank

Time

Name

Country

DOB

Place

Race

Race

Date of Race

1

2:18:20

NR

Liliya Shobukhova

RUS

13-Nov-77

1

Bank of Am

Chicago

9 Oct - 2011

2

2:18:37

NR

Mary Keitany

KEN

18-Jan-82

1

Virgin

London

22-Apr - 2012

3

2:18:58

NR

Tiki Gelana

ETH

22-Oct-87

1

ABN Amro

Rotterdam

15-Apr - 2012

4

2:19:31

 

Aselefech Mergia

ETH

23-Jan-85

1

Stand Chart

Dubai

27-Jan - 2012

5

2:19:50

 

Edna Kiplagat

KEN

15-Sep-79

2

Virgin

London

22-Apr - 2012

6

2:19:52

 

Mare Dibaba

ETH

20-Oct-89

3

Stand Chart

Dubai

27-Jan - 2012

And to be truthful, Kenya's 3rd entrant, Priscah Jeptoo isn't too shabby, as she ran 2:20:14 for third in London in April.

But one of the big six is going to win. The question is "Which one?"

Breaking Down The Top Six

Russia's Liliya Shobukova is the second fastest marathoner in history thanks to the 2:18:20 she ran in Chicago last fall. If you don't know much about the 34-year-old, we highly recommend the profile the IAAF recently produced on her. But to make a long story short, the former 14:23 performer moved up the marathon late in her career and has never run a bad one. She's run six marathons - all majors - and never finished worse than third, with four wins in her last five marathons.

But her last loss in a marathon came in London in 2011 and to one of the women in the Olympics. Kenya's Mary Keitany, the #3 performer in history, won the 2011 Virgin London Marathon easily over Shobukova 2:19:19 to 2:20:15.

That victory, plus Keitany's 2:18:37 win in London this year, which featured a sensational 67:44 second half and last 10km of something close to 31:30, plus her 65:50 world record half marathon from 2011, makes the 30-year-old a big favorite in our minds and those of the bookies as well (if you are betting, we'd say the underdog odds are decent as nothing is a sure thing in a marathon).

Assuming her training has been going well, Keitany can only beat herself with poor pacing, which is exactly what happened in New York last fall.

It should be remembered, however, that two years ago in 2010, Keitany was beaten fair and square in New York when Edna Kiplagat got the win. The 32-year-old Kiplagat also won Worlds last year as well and ran 2:19:50 for second in London this year. If Keitany is off her game just a little bit, Kiplagat could certainly get the gold.

 

Tiki Gelana Winning In Rotterdam

And then there is the new guard of women's marathoning. The first three sub-2:20 performers we've talked about have all been over 30. Ethiopia's Tiki Gelana is just 24 and is already the fifth fastest women in history at 2:18:58. She's by far the youngest woman ever to go sub-2:19.

Age Of First Sub-2:19
Tiki Gelana -24 years old
Paula Radcliffe - 28 years old
Catherine N'dereba -29 years old
Mary Keitany - 30 years old
Liliya Shobukhova - 33 years old

She's certainly talented, but this race represents a big step up in class for her, as she's never run a major before. If she wins, marathoning has a new big young star.

The other two Ethiopians in the race can't be 100% discounted either. 27-year-old Aselefech Mergia won Dubai in 2:19:31 in January after getting the silver and bronze at the World Half Marathon Championships in 2008 and 2009. Mare Dibaba (no relation to Tirunesh) at age 22 became the youngest sub-2:20 in history by running 2:19:52 for third in Dubai. Of course, since she was determined to be too old for the European juniors back in 2009, when she had briefly transferred her allegiance to Azerbaijan, we say not much should be made of her age.

 
Shalange Flanagan Enjoyed 2008
*2008 Photos

What About The Americans?

The three American women are all pretty credentialed on paper. However, barring a Billy Mills type run or Miracle on Ice type performance, a gold medal is out of the question for them, but a bronze medal is within the realm of possibility.

We rank the American's chances for a medal from least to best.

3. Desi Davila - The Olympic Trials runner-up, who inspired all Americans when she almost won Boston in 2011, has been hurt and has to be 100% discounted. Starting the race will be an accomplishment for her.

2. Kara Goucher - The 2007 bronze medallist at 10,000 is 34 years old now. This seemingly is her last good shot at Olympic glory. A top three finish in London isn't something one could logically hope for from Goucher, who was third at the US Trials. Goucher has run seven career marathons and while she's rarely been in a time trial type race, her PR is just 2:24.52. 16 women in this year's Olympic field have broken 2:25 this year. 11 have broken 2:24 this year. A top 10 showing would be a good result for her.

1. Shalane Flanagan - Flanagan won Olympic bronze in the 10,000 in Beijing thanks to her American record 30:22.22. She followed that up with a bronze medal at World Cross Country in 2011. At age 30, she's much younger than Goucher. On paper, Flanagan is by far America's best and really only legitimate hope for a medal. She's only run two marathons and both ended up with positive results. She won the Trials in Houston in January. In 2010, she was second in a slow New York race in 2:28:40. In that New York race, she also did stun Mary Keitany. The big concern in terms of Flanagan is how will she do if the pace is super-fast. She's never gone out fast in a marathon. She's a great competitor and did do well in the fast-paced Beijing 10,000, but being under pressure for the whole 26.2 miles is something she's never experienced before. We can't imagine that London will go out slower than about 71 for the half marathon, so the whole race will be a new experience for Flanagan. Is she a true marathoner? We'll find out soon enough.

LRC Prediction: 1) Keitany 2) Shobukhova 3) Kiplagat

Quick Take (QT ) #1: We know many American fans are probably wishing we'd given Goucher more of a chance for a medal and Flanagan more of a chance for gold but our job is to be objective. Finishing third would be an amazing accomplishment for Flanagan. Consider this: At the US Track & Field Trials, Flangan ran 31:59 for 10,000 and placed third. Yes, she was in the midst of her marathon training, but Keitany closed her marathon in London in something close to 31:30.

QT #2: Keitany is certainly scary good in our minds and likely could produce 2:16 maybe on a good day but Radcliffe's 2:15:25 is a record that is scary, scary good. According to the conversion chart of LetsRun.com coaching guru John Kellogg, it equates to something like 13:44 and 28:43.

Full list of entrants here.


Comments, questions, suggestions, or a story you'd like to submit? Email us.

Quantcast


Tell a friend about this article
(Dont worry we won't email your friend(s) again. We send them a 1 time email)
Enter their email address(es), separated by a comma.
Enter your name:

Don't Worry: We
Back to Main Front Page
Questions, comments or suggestions?Please email the LetsRun.com staff at [email protected]


Back To Top