FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lel and Wanjiru Are Ready to Battle Again
LONDON, April 22, 2009 -- The Kenyans Martin Lel and Sammy Wanjiru are
ready to challenge for title of champion of champions at Flora London
Marathon on Sunday (26 April).
Lel, seeking to achieve an unprecedented fourth Flora London Marathon
victory on Sunday, summed up the atmosphere with four days to go before the
"What makes London unique? It's the cream, it can invite the strongest
athletes from all over the world and you know that if you win you are the
strongest - you become the champion of champions. It's been an
unforgettable part of my life."
The memory of last year's epic contest - when Lel, runner-up Wanjiru and
the third man home, Moroccan Abderrahim Goumri, sank to their knees shortly
after crossing the finish line- has already claimed its niche in athletics
On that occasion it was the lanky Lel who produced his trademark finishing
kick but his fellow Kenyan Wanjiru gained revenge at the Beijing Olympics
later in the year, winning the gold medal with a performance that has a
strong claim to be the greatest marathon ever run in a championships. Lel,
his preparations hindered by a bout of malaria, finished fifth so this is
indeed a re-match in their amicable rivalry.
Yet Wanjiru has a warning for any rival on Sunday: "My target is to break
the world record and be the world number one. If the pace is good on
Sunday, I'll try to break the world record."
Given the manner in which he wore down his rivals to become the first
Kenyan man to win the Olympic marathon title, Haile Gebrselassie's world
record of 2:03:59 is certainly on the agenda. Pacemakers for the leading
group have instructions to run at 2:04:00 tempo, while a second group of
pacers will be going for 2:07:30.
Comparing their form in the build-up to London doesn't favour one Kenyan
marvel over the other. Wanjiru ran 61:25 for seventh place at the Lisbon
Half Marathon on March 22, disappointing for a man who holds the world
record for the distance of 58:33, although the 22-year-old emphasises his
ability to peak at the right time:
"I wasn't doing speed work at the time, I was concentrating on long
distance. If the pace is 61:50 on Sunday, that would be good for me and we
could break the world record."
In contrast, Lel won the Lisbon Half Marathon in 59:56 and after solid
preparation in Kenya, unlike the previous year when civil unrest forced him
to switch to a training base in Namibia, all seemed to be on schedule.
Although he's been troubled by a slight hip injury in recent days, he
relishes the pressure of aiming to go one better than the Mexican Dionicio
Ceron's hat-trick of wins from 1994 to 1996:
"I know the Flora London Marathon is one of the most competitive races but
it's normal for me to have pressure & pressure is actually good for me.
I'm ready to go with the pace, especially if my friend Wanjiru tries
something, I'll be there."
Such is the quality of the field in London yet again, that the 2007 World
Champion Luke Kibet concedes that a fast pace would leave him concentrating
on improving his personal best of 2:08:52, set when finishing third in
Eindhoven four years ago.
He still has harrowing memories of the unrest in Kenya last year but
regained his winning touch at the Singapore Marathon last December. Now
recovered from a minor tendon injury, Kibet wants to improve on 11th place
in London 12 months ago:
"Last year I ran badly but the weather wasn't good and that didn't suit me.
Now I've prepared well and I want to run my personal best in London."
Sunday's race will also be significant for Wanjiru and Lel in the 2008-2009
World Marathon Majors series. Wanjiru leads the men's rankings with 40
points while Lel is third with 26, four adrift of Deriba Merga of Ethiopia,
who moved into second place thanks to his splendid victory in the Boston
Marathon on Monday.