By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- A hip problem prevented former World Half Marathon champion Gladys Cherono of Kenya from defending her crown in Berlin last year, but the Kenyan now feels ready to battle for the title on Sept. 24.
Cherono, 34, however will face a reality test when she comes up against five other runners on the start list who have already broken two hours and 24 minutes mark this season at the Berlin marathon.
"It really feels nice to have recovered. It had been hard for me last season. There were no marathon races for me owing to the injury and am happy it has healed completely," she said on Wednesday in Eldoret.
Cherono, who won in Berlin with her lifetime best of 2:19:25 back in 2015, will face competition in the shape of her rivals who include defending champion Aberu Kebede, a triple Berlin winner (2010, 2012, 2016), and her Ethiopian compatriots Amane Beriso, runner-up in Dubai 2016, Gulume Tollesa, the 2015 Frankfurt winner, and Meseret Mengistu, the 2015 Paris champion.
Another contender to be reckoned with is the Prague champion this year, Valary Aiyabei of Kenya, with a best of 2:21:57. Every one of them has shown they have the ability to win marathons on the big stage.
"The big marathons always have tough athletes and it has never been easy winning. I guess it comes down to fitness and strategy and hopefully it will play to my advantage," she added.
Last year a hip injury has forced Cherono to withdraw from the New York City Marathon.
The nagging injury also saw her miss her debut at London Marathon in April. But with that over her, she can focus on redeeming her career on September 24 on the streets of Berlin.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele will join Kenyans Eliud Kipchoge and Wilson Kipsang in the quest for the Berlin Marathon title, organizers have confirmed.
The addition of Bekele, the second fastest marathoner of all-time, adds even more power to an already high calibre field which now includes three of the distance's five fastest men.
Kipchoge's avowed intention is to break the 2:02:57 world marathon record set by his compatriot Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2014. Kipchoge had a kind of "lab test" at the beginning of May when he ran an unratifiable 2:00:25, the fastest time ever for the marathon distance, on the Formula One circuit of Monza in Italy.
But this feat was achieved with the help of a team of substitute pacemakers who also formed a wind shield from start to finish.