Last year’s Kenyan winner is hunting a personal best as she defends her London Marathon crown
Last year’s breakaway winner Joyciline Jepkosgei is ready to run even quicker when she defends her TCS London Marathon title on Sunday (2 October) just 12 months after defeating world record holder Brigid Kosgei in one of the most thrilling races in the event’s history.
The Kenyan former world half marathon record holder produced the perfect finish in 2021 as she turned on the power in the closing stages of a hard-fought race before crossing the Finish Line alone and unchallenged in a personal best of two hours, 17 minutes and 43 seconds, just 42 seconds outside the women-only world and London course record.
That mark of 2:17:01, set by fellow Kenyan Mary Keitany in 2017, could well be under threat this year, as Jepkosgei believes she is in shape to improve her best as she aims to match Kosgei as a back-to-back London winner.
“Preparation has been going really well and I’m ready for Sunday,” she said. “All has been going OK in training, so now I hope to do better than last year and even improve my personal best.
“According to my preparation, I’m ready to go faster. That’s my target.”
Kosgei won’t be among the defending champion’s rivals this year as she has been forced to pull out with a hamstring injury. But Jepkosgei insists that won’t affect her approach to a race that still features one of the finest fields ever seen – including eight women who have run the 26.2-mile distance in under 2:20.
“There is no change or impact [from Kosgei pulling out],” said the 28-year-old. “My mindset is still to concentrate on myself on Sunday and to do my best whoever is in the race.”
Jepkosgei’s record-threatening time last year made her the seventh-quickest woman in marathon history. Yet such is the quality of this year’s field that she is still only the second-quickest on the Start Line behind Yalemzerf Yehualaw, the Ethiopian who produced the fastest debut of all time when she won April’s Hamburg Marathon in 2:17:23.
But Jepkosgei, who also won her debut marathon in New York in 2019, believes she is gaining experience with every race, despite only placing seventh at this year’s Boston Marathon, the only time in four marathons she has not been in the top two.
“Doing the marathon is like opening a new page every day,” she said. “Even now I am getting more experience every day.
“New York was my first race and gave me great experience and a great morale boost. Then I came last year and used that experience from New York to do well here.
“I’m only in the middle stage of my marathon career now. It’s a process of learning and I’m learning more all the time.
“Now I’m here, I’m hoping that all the experience so far will make me even quicker.”
After Kosgei’s withdrawal, Jepkosgei is one of only three Kenyans in this year’s elite women’s line-up facing five powerful Ethiopians.
World Championships silver medallist Judith Korir is one of those seeking to keep the crown in Kenyan hands. This year’s Paris Marathon champion, Korir was all set to be a pacemaker in London before receiving a late call-up when Kosgei pulled out.
It was a last-minute switch that needed a quick change of mindset for the 26-year-old who has won five of her eight marathons so far and never placed outside the top three.
“I’ve only had a short time to prepare for London,” said Korir. “I was ready to come and pace but now I’m excited to be running the whole distance.
“After the World Championships I relaxed for three weeks, then started to prepare to be a pacemaker here.
“So when I was told I was running the whole race I did not feel prepared, but now I am psychologically ready.”