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2010 London Marathon Women's Race Contenders
by Sharon Ekstrom
Irina Mikitenko |
Deena Kastor |
Mara Yamauchi |
Bai Xue |
Liliya Shobukhova |
Yoshimi Ozaki |
Svetlana Zakharova |
Lyudmila Petrova |
Constantina Dita |
2008 and 2009 Defending champion Irina Mikitenko returns to the London Marathon attempting a three-peat. World Marathon Majors Champions and German national marathon record holder with a 2:19:19 from the 2008 Berlin Marathon), she is the fastest woman in the field, one of the most consistent athletes and the odds-on favorite.
Mikitenko debuted at the 2007 Berlin Marathon finishing in second place in 2:24:51. She won her second career marathon at the 2008 London Marathon (2:24:14), and showed consistency returning to win the 2008 Berlin Marathon that autumn in a personal best of 2:19:19 - breaking the 2:20 barrier which only 8 women have ever done. As 4th fastest female marathon of all time Mikitenko continued her streak with a second victory of the 2009 London Marathon (2:22:11).
While the latter portion of 2009 was mentally tough on her, Mikitenko withdrew from the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, on her home turf, having missed weeks of training following the death of her father weeks prior to the event. She returned to racing at the 2009 Chicago Marathon but took second to Liliya Shobukova whose surge in the final mile of the race guaranteed her the win. There is no question that if Mikitenko is in top form, she will be victorious once again.
America's darling Deena Kastor is an inspirational runner as well as being known as the Bronze medalist from the 2004 Athens Olympics, champion of the 2005 Chicago Marathon and 2006 London Marathon and the American record holder with a 2:19:36 from the 2006 London Marathon.
The London Marathon has always been a lucky place for Kastor. In 2003, Kastor (then Drossin) first broke Joan Benoit Samuelson's long standing American Record (1985 Chicago Marathon, 2:21:21) of nearly twenty years. In that race she finished 3rd in a 2:21:16 behind Radcliffe's world record performace. Kastor's victories at the 2005 Chicago Marathon (2:21:25) and subsequent American record and sub 2:20 performance at the 2006 London Marathon (2:19:36) indicate her ability to perform well on fast, flat courses.
Following her easy victory of the 2008 US Olympic Team Trials in Boston, pressure mounted as the Olympics approached, but the unexpected happened; an injury forced her to drop out of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon in the first 5K of the race and led to several months of setbacks from the nagging injury that had impeded her performances.
With patience, a new training regimen and a new outlook, Kastor ran the 2009 to a 6th place finish in 2:28:50 – not spectacular in time, but good enough to give her confidence in her future training. At 37, Kastor, like other notable top runners from the past decade like Paula Radcliffe and Catherine Ndereba, have struggled to make comebacks…..but it's her patience and dedication that keeps her coming back.
Not only does Kastor have the desire to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, she is looking to run a new personal best.at the 2010 London Marathon.
Japanese-based Brit, Mara Yamauchi has remained off-the-radar for sometime due in part to having little racing exposure in the US and having been overshadowed by fellow countrywoman and marathon world record holder, Paula Radcliffe, Yamauchi's career now at 36 has only just begun. And it's surprising to learn that she almost threw in the towel in 2004 after her debut in the distance.
Yamauchi, an amateur athlete and Oxford grad with a full-time job overseas in Japan, attempted to make the 2004 British Olympic team heading to the Athens Games; but after rigorous training finished 17th at her debut at the 2004 London Marathon (2:39:16). Disappointed, many encouraged her to keep at it. She returned to London finishing 10th (2005, 2:31:52) and 5th in Tokyo (2005, 2:27:28). Her improvements continued with two sixth place finishes in London in 2006 (2:25:13) and 2007 (2:25:41).
What followed was a breakthrough year in 2008. Highlights included her first marathon victory at Osaka Marathon in 2:25:10, 6th place at the Beijing Olympic Marathon (2:27:29) and third place at the Tokyo Marathon (2:25:03).
Following two victories at the 2009 Matsue Half-Marathon and 2009 Marugame Half-Marathon, Yamauchi returned to the 2009 London Marathon and was runner-up in a personal best of 2:23:12. Later that year a foot injury prevented her from competing in the World Championships in Berlin - a momentary setback for Yamauchi. For so far in 2010 wins of a 30K race in Oume and the highly competitive New York City Half-Marathon (69:25) where she beat Deena Kastor (USA) by 18 seconds. Yamauchi is looking strong and will return for her sixth London Marathon, the most promising British national to be able to take on a competitive field in a long time. Most notably Radcliffe has taken a break from racing pregnant with her second child.
At twenty years of age, China's Bai Xue is the youngest world marathon champion from the 2009 Berlin World Championships winning the late morning event in a 2:25:15. With 10 marathons under her belt, surprisingly, Xue debuted in the marathon distance at the 2003 Beijing Marathon at the age of 14! Not to mention at that same race, this teenager placed 8th with a 2:37:07 where the winner Sun Yingie, eleven years her senior, became the third fastest woman in the world.
In 2004, she was still developing in the distance and took 3rd at the Seoul Marathon in 2:42:21. By 2009 Xue had six top three finishes including two victories at Zhengzhou (2007, 2:33:51) and Beijing (2008, 2:23:27). Her success at the 2009 World Championships marks the beginning of a potentially great career especially with the Chinese now racing more in Western Europe and the US.
Liliya Shobukhova was best known for the 3000m and 5000m; but certainly makes an impression as a relative newcomer to the marathon distance. The world took notice when she debuted at the 2009 London Marathon. Shobukhova had been prepared for a 2:27 or 2:25, but surprised herself as this leader of the chase pack came from behind passing top fellow Russian compatriots to earn 3rd place in 2:24:24.
She followed up that achievement with a victory of the 2009 Chicago Marathon in 2:25:56. While the win was impressive, her strategy in the race was incredible as she surged then completed the final mile of the race in 4:35 (the fastest mile in the race) - besting the likes of 2009 London Marathon defending champion Irina Mikitenko, 2010 Houston and Boston Marathon winner Teyba Erkesso and Ethiopian national record holder in the marathon Berhane Adere.
Shobukhova is still new to the distance; but if consistent will be not only a tough competitor in London, but a winner as well.
Japan has long been known for its female distance runners that top the fastest female marathoners all-time like Noguchi, Shibui, Kano and Takahashi; but as with most Asian runners, it has been rare to see them compete in the US until now. Yoshimi Ozaki will be running her first race on US soil, but what makes her special is that within her short marathon career, she has always finished in the top two and has never run a race slower than 2:26:19 - which was her debut in the marathon distance at the Nagoya Marathon (2nd place).
She followed up with a victory of the 2008 Tokyo Marathon in 2:23:30 beating a highly competitive field that included Yuri Kano, Mara Yamauchi, Yoko Shibui, Salina Kosgei, Svetlana Zakharova and Derartu Tulu. She then won silver at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin running with Xue Bai who surged to win with a 10 second lead in the final kilometer of the race.
Ozaki will rematch many of these women at the 2010 London Marathon and if she remains consistent expect the 28 year old to shine. Her older sister Mari Ozaki will join her in the field.
Continuing the Russian trend of running strong into their 40's is marathon veteran Svetlana Zakharova, who with 30 marathons to her name returns to the London Marathon a few weeks after her 40th birthday. Not the oldest female in the field or the fastest, she has run London six times and placed in the top 10 (2009-2:25:06, 4th; 2008-2:24:39, 2nd; 2004-2:28:10, 6th; 2002-2:22:31, 2nd; 2001-2:24:04, 2nd; 2000-2:28:11, 10th)
Other accolades include 17 top three finishes - most notably victories of the Honolulu Marathon (1997-2:33:14 and 2002-2:29:08), Boston Marathon
(2003-2:25:20) and Chicago Marathon (2003-2:23:07). A bronze at the 2001 World Championships are among other top performances in a career spanning over a decade. Although championship performances have been lackluster and her personal best of 2:21:31 from 2002 Chicago Marathon seems long ago, her 2009 London finish proves that she remains a worthy competitor in any top field.
At 41, Lyudmila Petrova will line up to start the London Marathon for the ninth time in her career. This veteran of the distance with twenty-seven career marathons can boast top 10 finishes at most of those races. What is most remarkable about this master's runner with nearly two decades of racing experience is that she can still compete at high levels against runners almost half her age.
Petrova ran her personal best finish at the 2006 London Marathon with a 2:21:29, stealing the Russian national record from Svetlana Zakharova. In 2008, she placed fifth in London in a 2:26:45 - the fastest finish for a 39-year-old. Focusing solely on marathons in 2008 and 2009, Petrova was runner-up to Paula Radcliffe at the 2008 New York City Marathon (2:25:43) also claiming the fastest female master's world record title. At the 2009 edition of the New York City Marathon, she proved herself against a field including marathon world record holder Radcliffe, 2009 Boston Marathon champion Salina Kosgei and Ethiopian track star Derartu Tulu. The race came down to a fight to the finish between the oldest in the field - Tulu and Petrova in the final miles of the race.
Fourth fastest in the 2010 London Marathon field, she remains a top competitor in the distance sport that incorporates strategy, skill and past experience and has proven that age is of no bearing in the marathon. Expect to see Petrova in the lead pack.
photo credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images Sport
In a field rife with veteran marathoners, Constantina Dita returns to the London Marathon bringing with her over a decade of marathons racing experience. At 40, Dita has worked hard and accomplished a great deal. Known for her aggressive running style, Dita has a strategy has led to many career top ten finishes. Her struggle to compete well in world championship events ended in 2005, a stellar year for the Romanian. Following a second place finish after battling it out against top Kenyan Margaret Okayo at the 2005 London Marathon, she edged out top Kenyan Derartu Tulu to take the bronze medal at the 2005 World Championships, trailing world record holder Paula Radcliffe and former world record holder Catherine Ndereba. Dita won the Half Marathon World Championships later in 2005 and capped off the year with a second-place finish at the 2005 Chicago Marathon in a personal best time of 2:21:30.
A dark horse for the 2008 Beijing Games, Dita blew away the women's field. She charged at top speeds from the start and her competition never followed. This tactic has burned her in the past; but a mixture of timing, strategy and fortitude earned her a gold medal in a field deep with talent.
She ended 2008 in a banner year with a 4th place finish at the Chicago Marathon (2:30:57). 2009 was disappointing with a DNF at the London Marathon and an 11th place finish at the inaugural Yokohama Women's Marathon (2:36:06); but if Dita is back on track she can be a wild card in the field.