Athletics: Kenyans want to break Paula Radcliffe's world marathon record

A group of Kenya's best women distance runners are conspiring to take a shot at the marathon world mark set by Britain's Paula Radcliffe (above) more than 10 years ago. -- FILE PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
A group of Kenya's best women distance runners are conspiring to take a shot at the marathon world mark set by Britain's Paula Radcliffe (above) more than 10 years ago. -- FILE PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NAIROBI (AFP) - A group of Kenya's best women distance runners are conspiring to take a shot at the marathon world mark set by Britain's Paula Radcliffe more than 10 years ago.

Her time of 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds, set on the streets of London, has become one of athletics' toughest records to break, with only a handful of women managing to even clock 2 hours and 20 minutes since.

But Kenya's top women athletes, tired of seeing their male counterparts steal the limelight at international races, say the time has come to bring the title home.

"Why can't we do like our men?" said two-time Berlin marathon champion Florence Kiplagat.

"Though I was privileged to win the women's race on both occasions, the men turned out to be the big heroes," she said of the 2011 and 2013 races, when the men's world records were set by Patrick Makau and then Wilson Kipsang.

"I celebrated for Makau and Kipsang, knowing very well that next time it would be my own turn to become a hero if I broke the current women's record," said the 26-year-old, a former world half-marathon champion who has a personal best over the marathon of 2:19:44.

"The time has come for us Kenyan women to make the attempt. It is difficult for one person to manage alone but, with teamwork, we can succeed. Four of us have all managed to run under 2:20, and if we plan well and run as a team, it can be achievable."

Priscah Jeptoo, the Olympic silver medallist and current London marathon champion, said the Kenyan women needed to select a fast and flat course - like Berlin, Chicago or London - then train specifically and run as a team.

She would like a race where she, Mary Keitany (2:18.37), Florence Kiplagat and Edna Kiplagat (2:19.50) "assist each other and push beyond the world mark".

Still, Kenyan runners depend heavily on race wins, bonuses and World Marathon Majors points for their income - making the prospect of working together and eventually sacrificing oneself for a rival a difficult and costly proposition.