Maxwell aims for two-and-a-half hours in London Marathon

2011-04-16 00:00

TANITH Maxwell is amongst a large group of South Africans who will run tomorrow’s Virgin London Marathon.

In her first outing last year the Kloof-based athlete ran a personal best 2:34 marathon, which she improved to 2:32 in Berlin in September. This time round the target is to break the magical 2:30 barrier.

Apart from a disappointing 5 000 m race in the SA Yellow Pages Senior Championships where officials amazingly listed her as a DNS (did not start), her preparation for tomorrow’s event has gone well. Current weather predictions are in her favour with dry temperatures between nine and 14 degrees — almost ideal for running.

Said Maxwell, “This is like running the Olympics, World Champs all in one. Nine Japanese runners have been added to the world class elite field making it one of the strongest ever.”

Many of the world’s best will be using the race as a test of conditions and facilities in their build-up to the 2012 London Olympics.

“I will be focusing on my own race and pace. London’s great: there’s so much support from local South Africans it’s really special. I’m sure it will be the same again,” she added.

Last year Maxwell had the additional stress of the flight cancellations due to the Icelandic volcano eruption. It seemed to be repeating this year when she went to the airport only to find that her flight had been cancelled and would only take off at 7 am on Thursday morning, shortening her acclimatization time by a day.

The women’s field has been boosted by nine Japanese women who were due to compete in the Nagoya marathon, but as this had to be postponed after the earthquake the Japanese Federation asked London to assist their selection process for the World Championships by adding them to the elite field. Seven of the nine have already times fasterthan 2:29, with Yuri Kano top ranked with a 2:24:27.

In what is probably the strongest women’s field ever assembled for London there are 27 runners who have beaten 2:30, with Germany’s Irina Mikitenko the fastest at 2:19:19. Mikitenko won both 2008 and 2009, but dropped out of the 2010, which gave Liliya Shobukhova the title. The Russian went on to smash the her country’s national record, win Chicago and take honours in the World Marathon Majors. The 2007 winner, Zhou Chunix (2:19:51), is also in the field, which has strong representation from both Kenya and Ethiopia. There are no forgone conclusions, except that it will be a hard-fought battle to secure the prestigious London title.

Marathon sensation Sammy Wanjiru was forced out of the men’s race with a knee injury, but the London organisers brought back three-time London winner Martin Nel.

Among Nel’s opponents there will be the defending champion, Tsegaye Kebede from Ethiopia, world champion Abel Kirui, the fastest runner in 2010, Patrick Makau, and the third quickest of all time, James Kwambai.

With 10 runners having broken the 2:08 barrier and 20 under 2:13 this will both fast and tactical with the race probably decided in the final three kilometres.

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