Gromova has run personal bests each of the last two years in San Diego, posting a 2:28:23 to claim victory in 2008 and crossing the finish line in 2:27:37 to win by nearly two minutes over Kenya’s Hellen Kimutai last year. Her biggest competition this weekend will come from a couple of Kenyans. Anne Kosgei won last year’s Venice Marathon in a personal best of 2:27:46 and countrywoman Jemima Jelegat is coming off a half marathon personal best of 1:11:25, a time that suggests she’s in sub-2:30 shape and could be in the mix to contend for victory.
Ukraine’s Olena Shurkno won last year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in 2:31:22 and has a personal best of 2:30:13 from 2008. Polish Olympian Dorota Gruca, who sports a personal best of 2:27:46, and Ethiopian Shiru Deriba, who ran 2:28:26 last year in Dubai, round out the list of top contenders. The top American athlete is Samia Akbar of Herndon, Virginia, who represented the United States in the marathon at last summer’s World Championships. She has a personal best of 2:34:14, set in her debut marathon at New York in 2006.[sig:MarioFraioli]