It was a press conference like no other: the two titans of women’s marathon running, Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepngetich, sitting some metres apart due to the newly administered bumper technology ensuring that social distancing was strictly adhered to, peered at with great interest by the global press, nose to screen, via zoom.
Brigid is the current world record holder for women running in a mixed-sex race, with a time of 2:14:04 achieved last October at the Chicago Marathon. Having trumped Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year record earlier, she famously said, “I can go quicker” suggesting that 2:10 was an achievable time for a female athlete. Ruth is the 2019 Marathon World Champion, and has a marathon PB of 2:17:07 that puts her number 4 all-time behind Brigid, Paula Radcliffe and Mary Keitany.
Both of the Kenyan athletes looked happy and confident, gamely taking on complex questions from the press. But it was clear that both of them were holding a few cards to their chests.
When asked how it felt to return to London, Brigid replied with a big smile, “I am happy and excited to do this marathon again. I really like London because it’s a good course, and people are happy and cheer each other. I hope I will do my best to be invited next year.”
Ruth explained that she was also happy to be in London: “I’ll try my best,” she said, modestly. “I’ve trained well, I feel good, and ready for the run on Sunday to try my best.”
The pandemic was discussed, and its affect on training, with Ruth in particular pointing out the difficulties that it had entailed – training in isolation is a very different beast to the usual scheme of things.
Later, when Brigid was asked whether she was looking to break her record, she would only carefully say that: “Due to this pandemic, we didn’t do the same training like we did last year.” And she wouldn’t be drawn into offering predicted times, saying, “I want to try my best only on Sunday.”