2021 Virgin Money London Marathon

Can Brigid Kosgei Start A New Win Streak? London Marathon Women's Preview

Can Brigid Kosgei Start A New Win Streak? London Marathon Women's Preview

Brigid Kosgei headlines the women's field at the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon.

Sep 23, 2021 by Kevin Sully
Can Brigid Kosgei Start A New Win Streak? London Marathon Women's Preview

With few exceptions, Brigid Kosgei has ruled over women’s marathoning for three years. Kosgei won her first major marathon in 2018, breaking 2:20 for the first time during a 2:18:35 triumph in Chicago. The ascent was rapid from there. 

The next year, Kosgei won the 2019 London Marathon and smashed the world record in Chicago, posting an other-worldly 2:14:04. In the pandemic shortened season of 2020, Kosgei lowered her half-marathon personal best and defended her title in London. She hasn’t come close to matching her world record time, but she’s repeatedly run off big victories over competitive fields. 

Except for this summer when the hot temperatures in Japan threw a wrench into the Olympic marathon. Many of the favorites didn’t make it to the finish line. Kosgei did, but in second place. Peres Jepchirchir outlasted Kosgei and snapped Kosgei’s win streak at four marathons. 

In London, Kosgei will try to begin another streak and pull off a three-peat at the London Marathon. Last year, the pandemic altered to the race to an elite only field staged on a loop course in St James’s Park in the fall. This year, it will once again be in the fall, but the traditional course returns. And while Kosgei’s greatest challenge might be recovering from her silver medal Olympic race two months ago, she is also facing a stout field. 

Lonah Salpeter ran 2:17:45 last March at the Tokyo Marathon, the ninth fastest time in history. But like Kosgei, she will be coming back from the Olympics. Salpeter had a rough race in Sapporo, placing 66th in 2:48:31. 

Roza Dereje and Birhane Dibaba are veterans to the marathon and have personal bests of 2:18. Dibaba was runner-up to Salpeter in the Tokyo Marathon last year, while Dereje is the 2019 Valencia Marathon champion. The two had opposite experiences at the Olympics this summer. Dereje finished just out of the medals in fourth, while Dibaba did not finish the race. 

Perhaps the best woman positioned to upset Kosgei is a woman who didn’t run the Olympics. 

Joycilinie Jepkosgei didn’t make the Kenyan team for Tokyo so she will be entering the race with a more traditional build-up. This will be Jepkosgei’s debut in London and just the third marathon of her career.  The previous two have been terrific. She debuted with a victory in the New York City Marathon in 2019 and then followed it up with a second place finish at the Valencia Marathon. Prior to the marathon, Jepkosgei torn up the road racing scene in the shorter distance. She broke the world record in the half marathon in 2017 and ran under 1:06:00 four different times. Though she’s never raced in London, she did see a portion of the course when she served as a rabbit in 2019. 

The next group of contenders has yet to break 2:19, but certainly could get in the mix for a podium finish. Valary Jemeli ran 2:19:10 to win the 2019 Frankfurt Marathon. Ashete Bekere is the 2019 Berlin Marathon champion and finished fourth last year in London. Alemu Mergertu was fifth last year was victorious at the 2019 Rome Marathon.