By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- Chicago Marathon champion Florence Kiplagat from Kenya has said she is under no pressure to reclaim her title on Sunday, and believes she can improve on her best time.
With no major championship up next year, Kiplagat will leave caution to the wind as she seeks dominance in Chicago, but it will not come easily as she will face off with decorated Olympian and world record holder Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia as well as compatriot Valentine Kipketer in her bid to hold on to her title.
"I have confidence in my own training. It is always about how you prepare and not who you will run against. That information only matters in planning what strategy to use. But how strong you run the first half of the marathon will decide if you win or lose," said Kiplagat on Thursday in Nairobi before jetting out to Chicago.
Kiplagat will be going for her third Chicago title in a row and her fourth podium finish. She won last year's race in 2:21:32. She is the 16th fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:19:44.
Compatriot Kipketer finished third last year in 2:23:41, just 39 seconds slower than her personal best.
She held a lead in the pack of runners until Kiplagat took over. After a maternity break from marathons in 2015, she returned with her strong performance in Chicago and a sixth-place finish at the Boston Marathon (2:29:35) in April.
However, the focus will be on Dibaba to try and stop the Kenyans from complete domination.
Dibaba became the third fastest female marathoner in history in April by finishing second in the London Marathon in 2:17:56 behind Kenyan Mary Keitany who took 41 seconds off the women-only world record running 2:17:01 to break Paula Radcliffe's mark of 2:17:42.
Chicago race analysts predict Dibaba could break Radcliffe's 2002 course record of 2:17:18. The Chicago Marathon will be her third outing at the distance.
In the men's race, defending champion Abel Kirui will line up alongside world record holder Dennis Kimetto, who is returning from injury and keen to complete his first race since 2015 and half marathon world record holder Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.
There will also be Kenya's Stephen Sambu.