Kiplagat turns from pacemaker to contender at London Marathon

Updated: April 18, 2007, 1:30 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Ten years ago, Lornah Kiplagat was a pacemaker at the London Marathon. On Sunday, she'll be one of the favorites.

Kiplagat heads a field that includes Zhou Chunxiu, the only female in the race that has run under 2 hours, 20 minutes. Others include Berhane Adere, Gete Wami, Benita Johnson and Kiyoko Shimahara.

Last year, Kiplagat won the 20-kilometer world road running championship and a series of shorter distance races. She's been concentrating on the marathon, so her world cross-country title last month in Mombasa, Kenya, was a pleasant bonus.

"It was overwhelming ," Kiplagat said Wednesday. "I would like to take my career as long as possible, but it's now time to do it in the marathon. It's the motivation for me also because I still have something to achieve in this event."

Kiplagat said she has overcome the asthma problems that plagued her since running a personal best time of 2:22:22 in 2003 when she finished fourth Osaka, Japan.

"Since then, I'd been having the problems with running the marathon," Kiplagat said. "I really have not done what I've trained for or what I've wanted to do. But I think we've solved the problems."

Kiplagat ran her first marathon in 1997, winning in Los Angeles, and later that year she finished second in Chicago, her best finish in the big five marathons.

"Of course it would be great to win the London Marathon, but my biggest thing is being able to here 10 years after I was here for pacemaking," Kiplagat said.

That's when she met her Dutch husband, Pieter Langerhorst, who now coaches and manages her.

"That's my biggest memory and it gives me a good feeling when I got here," said Kiplagat, who was born in Kenya but now runs for the Netherlands. "That's already put me in the right mood."

Zhou won the Asian Games marathon last year but her only marathons outside Asia have been at the 2005 world championships in Helsinki, Finland, where she was fifth, and the 2004 Olympics, where she was 33rd.

In 2005, Zhou made history by winning two marathons in 14 days. She ran 2:23:24 to win in Seoul, South Korea, on March 13 and then won in Xiamen, China, in 2:29:58 on March 26. Her personal best of 2:19:51 was set winning in Seoul last March.

"There are a lot of races in Europe and we from the east, we'd like to learn a lot more and gain more experience in the west," Zhou said. "I'm not so nervous."

No Chinese woman has finished in the top three in the London Marathon, which began in 1981. Zhao Youfeng was fourth in 1990.

Zhou has been selected to race the marathon at the world championships in Osaka on Sept. 2. So have London competitors Constantina Tomescu-Dita and Shimahara, who finished second to Zhou at the Asian Games.

The men's field features former champions Martin Lel, Felix Limo and Khalid Khannouchi along with world record holder Paul Tergat, Olympic champion Stefano Baldini, New York City Marathon winner Marilson Gomes dos Santos and Haile Gebrselassie.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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