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Friday, August 3, 2012

Fierce Competition Expected In ‘Best Women’s Marathon Ever Assembled’

From left: Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Amy Hastings and Desiree Davila compete in the U.S. Olympic women’s marathon trials in January in Houston. (AP)


I’m always up early but that will definitely the case Sunday morning when the women’s Olympic marathon is contested in London. I was in Houston in January when Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davila and Kara Goucher made the U.S. team and it will be great to see them in this race, although there is some question about whether Davila will be able to run because of an injury. There hasn’t been an American winner in the women’s Olympic marathon since Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first one in Los Angeles in 1984, and to be realistic, the chances for a U.S. win Sunday are slim,  but as they say, that’s why they run the races.

‘Unbelievable’ Competition

“The competition is unbelievable,” said Amby Burfoot, editor-at-large for Runner’s World. “It’s the best women’s marathon ever assembled. There are seven women in the field who have run under 2 hours and 20 minutes.”

One of them is Kenyan Mary Keitany, who ran 2:18:37 when she won the London Marathon earlier this year, but that race was staged on an entirely different course. The Olympic marathon course is a made-for-TV route which includes cobblestones and passes all the London landmarks. It also features more than 100 sharp turns.

Shalane Flanagan’s Chances

“It’s not fastest course in the world and that is good for Shalane,” said Burfoot. “But she is going to have to gut it out.” Flanagan’s fastest marathon time is over 2:25 so she will have to run the race of her life to compete with Keitany and other sub-2:20 marathoners like Kenya’s Edna Kipligat and Russia’s Liliya Shobukova.

The men’s marathon is Sunday, August 12, the final day of the London Olympics.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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