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Tigst Assefa at the 2024 TCS London Marathon press conference




World record holder Tigst Assefa aims to set a new women’s-only best time

Tigst Assefa is looking to add another world record to her name when she chases victory in a star-studded women’s elite race at the TCS London Marathon on Sunday, 21 April. 

The Ethiopian sent shock waves through the marathon running world when she smashed minutes from the women’s outright world record in the German capital last September, clocking the previously unthinkable time of 2:11:53 to retain the Berlin Marathon crown. 

Just seven months’ later, the former 800m runner makes her London debut with her sights set firmly on lowering the women-only world mark of 2:17:01 run by the brilliant Kenyan Mary Keitany on this course seven years ago. 

“I’ve trained very well, just as I did for Berlin,” said the composed and confident 27-year-old on Thursday. “We’ll see how well on Sunday, but I’m sure I can beat the record, as I’m sure many of my competitors can too. 

Elite Women's Field 2024 TCS London Marathon

“I am very happy to be in London for the first time and very excited. My training has gone really well and I feel ready for the race.” 

She will have to be, for Assefa faces one of the most talented fields of female distance runners ever assembled, one containing three of the top four fastest women in history and seven who have run under 2:17:30. “No race in the history of our sport has had that,” as Event Director Hugh Brasher put it on Wednesday. 

Assefa may be the favourite, but with only three marathons behind her she is a relative newcomer over 26.2 miles next to some of her rivals. Indeed, her rise has been nothing short of spectacular since she burst onto the global marathon scene less than two years ago running a stunning Ethiopian record of 2:15:37 in Berlin. 

While that performance raised eyebrows, what she did 12 months later on the same flat, fast course was draw-dropping, as Assefa completed the classic distance more than two minutes quicker than any other woman in history. 

Whether she can be as dominant on London’s more technical terrain remains to be seen, not that Assefa seems to have any doubts. 

“Whether it’s London or Berlin, it’s the same for me,” she said. “I won’t change my strategy. I’m here to win.” 

Among those hoping to disrupt her relentless rhythm will be the Kenyan duo Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepngetich, who sit third and fourth on the all-time list behind Dutch dynamo Sifan Hassan, and their compatriot Peres Jepchirchir, the Olympic champion who was third here last year. 

Kosgei, in particular, will be keen to produce her best again on the London course. After back-to-back victories in 2019 and 2020, she dropped out early last year with an injury, missing Hassan’s dramatic win. 

“Last year, I wasn’t well but this year I come ready to race well again,” said the experienced 30-year-old, who was back to winning ways in Abu Dhabi last year. “I’ve prepared well in Kenya and I’ll be ready to do my best on Sunday.” 

As the former world record holder, Kosgei certainly has the credentials with two London and two Chicago titles to her name as well as the Olympic silver medal from Tokyo.  

Chepngetich is also a double Chicago Marathon champion and returns to London four years after placing third in the closed-loop, Covid-disrupted race of 2020.  

“I’m happy to be back after that race in 2020,” said the 29-year-old. “I’m ready to run well, but the field is so strong. Everybody here is chasing something. 

“So for me it’s about winning first, then I’ll think about setting records.” 

“It will be tough,” agreed Jepchirchir, who’s won the New York City and Boston Marathons in recent years, but missed the Big Apple race last year because of injury. 

“I’m in good health now,” she said. “I was happy to be third last year and this time I’m feeling better.  

“But the field is so strong, I think the world record is definitely on. After that, may the best one win.”