Olympic Outlook: Women’s Marathon Preview

History shows the Olympic Marathon has traditionally favored the underdogs. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Will an American runner reach the podium in London?

The Olympic marathon has proven to be a race where runners other than the favorites often rise to the occasion and wind up on the medal podium. Although many marathons around the world have more prize money and the chance for world records, only the Olympics offers an athlete the prestige of representing their country, the lure of winning a medal and the lifelong honor that goes with each one.

Stagnant for the better part of two years, women’s marathoning is finally on the upswing again with six women under 2:20 in 2012 — including five who will be on the starting line in London. The favorites for the gold medal are the second- and third-fastest women in history: Kenya’s Mary Keitany, who won the 2012 London Marathon in 2:18:37, and Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova, who took the 2011 Chicago Marathon in 2:18:20. The fastest woman in history, Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, was forced to withdraw from the race this past Sunday due to a lingering case of osteoarthritis in her foot. Also worth keeping a close eye on is Kenyan Edna Kiplagat, the reigning world champion and 2010 New York City Marathon champion who was runner-up to Keitany in London this past spring with a 2:19:50 personal best clocking.

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The United States sends a strong team to London led by Olympic Trials champion Shalane Flanagan, who finished second to Kiplagat in her marathon debut at New York in 2010. Second and third-place Trials finishers Desiree Davila and Kara Goucher, who trains with Flanagan as part of coach Jerry Schumacher’s Nike Oregon Track Club Elite team, are hoping they can follow in Flanagan’s footsteps and help land an American on the medal stand.

Here’s a overview of the American entrants in this Sunday’s women’s Olympic Marathon in London, which will send runners past a variety of iconic landmarks—the House of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London—on a four-loop course that starts and ends at The Mall, not the Olympic Stadium.

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