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LetsRun.com's 2009 IAAF Berlin World Championships Preview

Women's Marathon - Clash Of World's Hardest-Working Women

By LetsRun.com
August, 2009

When: August 23, 11:15am Berlin Time
*LRC's World Championship Prediction Contest
*LRC WC Previews/Results/Recaps By Event
*LRC WC Previews/Results/Recaps By Day
IAAF Worlds Page

2007 Medalists: Catherine Ndereba (KEN) Gold, Zhou Chunxiu (CHI) Silver, Reiko Tosa (JAP) Bronze

As we research the women competing for the top spots in the IAAF World Championships Marathon, one thing becomes strikingly clear. These women are doing everything they can to get to the top.

Another more disappointing truth has emerged leading up to the event: the field keeps getting weaker!

Our initial preview paragraph went like this:

Irina Mikitenko of Germany hopes to give the home nation's fans the perfect ending to the meet by winning the most grueling race on the schedule. She'll take to the streets at 11:15am on Sunday morning, 23 August, the final day of Berlin's World Championships. Mikitenko will undoubtedly go off as Germany's best hope for a gold medal, though they certainly will have other chances. A double winner of the FLORA London Marathon, last year's Berlin Marathon champion, and the reigning World Marathon Major champion, there is little argument that Mikitenko has been the world's best marathoner the past two years.

Unfortunately, Mikitenko has withdrawn. Her father died and her preparation has suffered. We send our support to Mikitenko and her family.

Our next paragraph went like this:

But assuming Mikitenko's foes make it to the line healthy, she'll face one of the best marathon fields ever assembled in women's running. Paula Radcliffe announced triumphantly months ago that her goal would be world marathon gold in Berlin.

Unfortunately, doubts have again surfaced as Paula's foot may not be ready to go. Just a short time ago she had surgery on a bunion, pronouncing herself all ready, but something must have gone amiss. Speaking of British team member injuries, something definitely went awry with Mara Yamauchi, who pulled out of the Great Britain team weeks ago citing injury. Yamauchi performed brilliantly in the London Marathon earlier this year.

And now we continue with our preview of the women's marathon ...

One runner we know is ready is American Kara Goucher, who will run her third marathon - and first overseas (ING NYC then Boston) - in a bid to stamp herself as one of the world's best. Goucher ran 68:05 on the streets and bike paths of Chicago for the half marathon only several days ago, the 21st-fastest performance in women's running history on a record-worthy course. Goucher has stated that she put her life on hold for Berlin and that she is ready to take any risk to give herself a shot at another world medal to go along with her 10k medal from Osaka in 2007. Speaking of Osaka, the best finish for an American woman marathoner in that race was 31st.

Japan will bring a carriage full of hungry, accomplished marathoners to Berlin. Yoko Shibui, Yuri Kano, Yukiko Akaba, Yushiko Fujinaga and Yoshimi Ozaki, most of whom with fantastic career best times at the marathon. Shibui has cracked 2:20 and is the 7th-fastest women's marathoner of all time. Ozaki (2:23), Kano (2:24) and Akaba (2:25) could also play a significant role in this race. They hope to follow in the footsteps of 2007 World Championships medal winner Reiko Tosa.

Silver in 2007 went to China's Zhou Chunxiu, also a former FLORA London Marathon Champion. Zhou faded to 12th in the 2009 London Marathon after coming in to the race under the weather. If she is fresh and healthy (which as of August 8th we can assume she is not, given remarks in the Chinese press saying they have essentially zero medal contenders for Berlin), she could be a factor, but her health has to be a major question mark as she has not competed since London in April.

The Ethiopian, Kenyan and Russian teams will all be hoping for medals. Russian Svetlana Zakharova won a WC marathon bronze in 2001 and will lead their squad. Ethiopian Dire Tune lost her grip on the Boston Marathon championship by less than a second back in April in defeating Goucher. She'll be joined by a slew of 2:24 compatriots including Paris Marathon champion, newcomer Astede Baysa, and Houston Marathon champion Teyba Erkesso plus Bezunesh Bekele. Quite a squad.

The Kenyans are not as strong on the women's side as on the men's, with the young 2008 Paris Champion Martha Komu (5th in Beijing) and Helena Kiprop leading the team. Another woman to watch will be Romania's Lydia Simon, 5th in the 2007 World Championships.

Looking ahed to the race, it will be interesting to see how Mikitenko does in her first major unrabbited marathon who shows up healthy! If Radcliffe is in the race, she'll effectively act as the rabbit, and we'll be in for an interesting race. Goucher has hinted at setting a fast pace herself, so perhaps she'll drag the field through a fast first half. A slow pace will likely allow runners like Dire Tune and the fast-finishing Ethiopians to stay in the hunt for a medal with a big kick.

The question we now have to ask is, "Is Kara Goucher the favorite?" She certainly has a much better chance at her second World Championships medal now that Mikitenko and Yamauchi are definitely out and Radcliffe and Chunxiu are likely out. But the Ethiopians, Russians, Japanese and Kenyans have very strong teams. Goucher is very confident but still has only run 2:25, not exactly a time that screams, "definite medal winner!" The other squads have 4 or 5 girls that have run that. Yoko Shibui has run 2:19. Dire Tune smoked Goucher at the end in Boston.

More important perhaps than Goucher's times are her preparations, her motivations, and her beliefs. We don't think Goucher is afraid of anyone. She may have been intimidated by Mikitenko or a healthy Paula R., but nobody in the current field should scare her. Goucher medaled in Osaka in the 10,000m. She can do it again here, especially if she is ultimately going to be a better marathoner than a track runner. We'll see, it will definitely be a cracking conclusion to the meet on Sunday the 23rd.

LRC Predictions:
Gold: Irina Mikitenko GER We've got no clue
Silver: Paula Radcliffe GBR
Bronze: Zhou Chunxiu CHN

Women's Marathon Statistics By LRC Coaching Guru John Kellogg

2:22:11  Irina Mikitenko (GER)+  PR 2:19:19 (#4 all-time) (2008)
2:23:12  Mara Yamauchi (GBR)+   6th in 2008 Olympic Games, 9th in 2007 World Championships, 18th in 2005 World Championships
2:23:42  Yoko Shibui (JPN)  PR 2:19:41 (#7 all-time) (2004)   4th in 2001 World Championships
2:24:02  Bezunesh Bekele (ETH)  PR 2:23:09 (2008)
2:24:18  Teyba Erkesso (ETH)
2:24:24  Liliya Shobukhova (RUS)+
2:24:42  Atsede Bayissa (ETH)
2:25:02  Aselefech Mergia (ETH)
2:25:06  Svetlana Zakharova (RUS)  PR 2:21:31 (2002)   Bronze medal in 2001 World Championships, 9th in 2004 Olympic Games, 9th in 2003 World Championships, 22nd in 2008 Olympic Games
2:25:35  Helena Kiprop (KEN)  PR 2:25:01 (2008)
2:25:37  Robe Tola (ETH)  PR 2:24:35 (2006)   56th in 2007 World Championships
2:25:40  Yukiko Akaba (JPN)
2:26:54  Gete Wami (ETH)+  PR 2:21:34 (2006)
2:27:14  Lidia Simon (ROM)  PR 2:22:54 (2000)   Gold medal in 2001 World Championships, silver medal in 2000 Olympic Games, bronze medal in 1999 World Championships, bronze medal in 1997 World Championships, 5th in 2007 World Championships, 6th in 1996 Olympic Games, 8th in 2008 Olympic Games, 10th in 1995 World Championships
2:28:13  Yoshiko Fujinaga (JPN)
2:28:44  Yuri Kano (JPN)  PR 2:24:27 (2008)
2:29:02  Zhou Chunxiu (CHN)  PR 2:19:51 (#9 all-time) (2006)   Silver medal in 2007 World Championships, bronze medal in 2008 Olympic Games, 5th in 2005 World Championships, 33rd in 2004 Olympic Games
2:29:10  Julia Mumbi (KEN)  2:26:00 (2008)
2:29:16  Risper Kimaiyo (KEN)
2:30:50  Irene Limika (KEN)  PR 2:28:31 (2008)
2:32:17  Dire Tune (ETH)  PR 2:24:40 (2008)   15th in 2008 Olympic Games, 37th in 2005 World Championships
2:32:25  Kara Goucher (USA)  PR 2:25:53 (#3 all-time USA) (2008)
No mark in 2009  Desireé Davila (USA)  PR 2:31:33 (2008)
No mark in 2009  Zoila Gómez (USA)  PR 2:33:53 (2008)   35th in 2007 World Championships
No mark in 2009  Paige Higgins (USA)  PR 2:33:06 (2008)
No mark in 2009  Martha Komu (KEN)  PR 2:25:33 (2008)   5th in 2008 Olympic Games
No mark in 2009  Tera Moody (USA)  PR 2:33:54 (2008)
No mark in 2009  Yoshimi Ozaki (JPN)  PR 2:23:30 (2008)
No mark in 2009  Paula Radcliffe (GBR)  PR 2:15:25 WR (2003)   Gold medal in 2005 World Championships, 23rd in 2008 Olympic Games
+ = Not on Worlds Team in Marathon



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