Keitany to lead high-quality Kenyan quartet at Virgin London Marathon

High-quality women’s line-up announced for the 2012 Virgin London Marathon

Mary Keitany (Mark Shearman)

Four of the fastest women from the top marathon-running nation in the world will take to the streets of the British capital next year for the Virgin London Marathon – a race they will likely treat as a dress rehearsal for the London Olympic marathon later that year.

They form part of one of the highest-quality women’s startlist ever for an international marathon, with 10 sub-2:23 runners in a field that includes the defending London champion, the world champion, the Olympic champion, and the Berlin Marathon winner.

Kenya’s Mary Keitany, competing in just her second ever 26.2-miler, won this year’s London Marathon in a time of 2:19:19 to become the sixth-fastest woman of all time. She also smashed the world record for the half-marathon with a time of 65:50 and finished third at the New York Marathon, having run the first half at near world-record schedule.

But her toughest opposition at next year’s race will come from her own nation as she will line up against world champion Edna Kiplagat and Berlin Marathon winner Florence Kiplagat. Edna Kiplagat is a formidable competitor, having won the 2010 New York Marathon. She finished third behind Keitany at this year’s London Marathon, where she set her PB of 2:20:46, and then went on to win the world title in Daegu.

Florence Kiplagat, like Keitany, made a huge breakthrough in only her second marathon. After a DNF in Boston, she went to the Berlin Marathon and ran a stunning 2:19:44, finishing almost four minutes ahead of world record-holder Paula Radcliffe.

A fourth Kenyan, Priscah Jeptoo, adds further quality. The 27-year-old won this year’s Paris Marathon with a PB of 2:22:51 before taking the silver medal at the World Championships in Daegu. Jeptoo has never finished lower than second in all of her five marathons to date.

Not to be outdone, Ethiopia will also field five of their best distance athletes. They include the 2010 Paris winner Atsede Baysa, Toronto Marathon champion Korene Jelila, 2010 Berlin Marathon winner Aberu Kebede, World Champs fourth-placer Bezunesh Bekele, and 2004 Olympic 10,000m medallist Ejegayehu Dibaba, who this year finished second in Chicago on her marathon debut with 2:22:09.

The field also includes former two-time London winner and German record-holder Irina Mikitenko. The 39-year-old won in London in 2008 and 2009, and set her lifetime best of 2:19:19 in Berlin in 2008. She struggled with injury over the past two years but recently made a strong return to finish second in Berlin in 2:22:18.

Other strong European contenders include Romania’s Olympic champion Constantina Dita, last year’s London second-placer Inga Abitova of Russia, and Swedish record-holder Isabellah Andersson. There’s also 2010 Chicago third-placer Mariya Konovalova, 2010 European cross-country champion Jessica Augusto, and Italy’s 2:26 woman Nadia Ejjafini.

The race will also be one of the final opportunities for British women to impress the GB team selectors ahead of the Olympics. With Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi already having been named on the team, it leaves just one place open. Vying for that place in London will be two-time Olympian Liz Yelling, sub-2:30 runner Claire Hallissey, marathon newcomer Louise Damen and Brighton winner Alyson Dixon.

Elite women’s field for London

Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:19:19
Irina Mikitenko (GER) 2:19:19
Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:44
Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:20:46
Constantina Dita (ROU) 2:21:30
Atsede Baysa (ETH) 2:22:04
Ejegayehu Dibaba (ETH) 2:22:09
Inga Abitova (RUS) 2:22:19
Korene Jelila (ETH) 2:22:43
Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 2:22:51
Bezunesh Bekele (ETH) 2:23:09
Isabellah Andersson (SWE) 2:23:41
Mariya Konovalova (RUS) 2:23:50
Aberu Kebede (ETH) 2:23:58
Jessica Augusto (POR) 2:24:33
Nadia Ejjafini (ITA) 2:26:15
Yuliya Ruban (UKR) 2:27:00
Liz Yelling (GBR) 2:28:33
Claire Hallissey (GBR) 2:29:27
Louise Damen (GBR) 2:30:00
Susan Partridge (GBR) 2:34:13
Alyson Dixon (GBR) 2:34:51
Amy Whitehead (GBR) 2:35:39
Helen Decker (GBR) 2:35:43
Rebecca Robinson (GBR) 2:37:14
Freya Murray (GBR) debut
Sonia Samuels (GBR) debut

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