Mary Keitany, Tirunesh Dibaba To Chase World Record At London Marathon

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It's hard to imagine a 26.2-mile race topping the drama of Monday's Boston Marathon, but the high-profile athletes assembled in London and lofty goals vocalized for this Sunday's Virgin Money London Marathon indicate that track fans may very well get two of the best marathons ever in a span of six days. 

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The longest-standing women's distance world record turns 15 this year—the untouchable 2:15:25 recorded by Paula Radcliffe at the 2003 London Marathon. Two challengers, 36-year-old Mary Keitany of Kenya and 32-year-old Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, both of whom are widely considered to be two of the top distance women in sporting history, will give Radcliffe's record a go this weekend at the same site.

Last year, the same duo raced with big results: Keitany set the women's-only world record of 2:17:01 and Dibaba became the third woman in history to break 2:18 with a 2:17:56 runner-up finish. 

This year, male pacesetters will assist Keitany in her stated goal to break Radcliffe's record, which was also set with the aid of male pacesetters—thus the differentiation between her overall world record and Keitany's women's-only mark. Dibaba has also said she will be in the world record hunt is the conditions cooperate.

The key to setting a new record will be patience.

Last year, Keitany ran 44 seconds faster through 10K (31:17 vs 32:01) and 1:08 faster through the half marathon (66:54 vs 68:02) than Radcliffe did in her world-best performance.

Keitany's pace dropped off after the half marathon, as her pacer Caroline Chepkoech dropped out at that mark. Dibaba was also already a minute behind her rival at that point in the race, though she has said she is better prepared for the hot early start this year. 

Race organizers in London have not yet announced the identities of the male pacers, nor how long they are instructed to run, but it's fair to assume they will last longer on the course than Chepkoech.

Keitany showcased her 2018 fitness with a runner-up finish at the RAK Half Marathon in 64:55, a time that made her the third-fastest women's half marathoner in world history.

Dibaba has not raced since winning the Chicago Marathon last fall in 2:18:31.

Read notes from the London Marathon women's press conference here.

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