NAIROBI, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Paris marathon champion Betsy Saina says she is in top shape as she targets to successfully defend her title at this year's Marugame Half Marathon on Feb. 3 in Japan.
Speaking in Nairobi on Friday before departing to Japan, Saina said her training has been going on well and she hopes to be in best shape ahead of her debut at the Boston Marathon on April 15.
"I look forward to have a good time in Japan. I have the focus on the race and with so many top runners lining up, it will offer me a real test to see where I rank as I continue my preparations for the Boston marathon in April," said Saina on Friday.
Saina has been training on the track to boost her speed and with a shorter race in Marugame, she hopes to hit two birds with one stone - win the race and gauge her speed work.
"I have just done my tempo workout and am happy for the progress attained. One step at a time and that's what makes me feel strong," she added.
"I am putting everything out to be ready for the Boston Marathon in April. I am thankful for the opportunity to race with the best in the world."
Aside from her marathon breakthrough win in Paris, Saina fared poorly in her next venture as she was relegated to eighth place at the Frankfurt Marathon.
Now she hopes her hard work in training will bear the required fruits, first in Marugame and then in Boston.
In Marugame, Saina will be up against American Sara Hall, Australian Senead Diver and Canadian Rachel Cliff.
Olympian Saina, who finished fifth in the 10,000m at the 2016 Rio Games, holds a fast full marathon best time of 2:22:56, which she hopes to improve in Boston where she will be up against 2018 winner Desiree Linden of the United States, two-time World Championships marathon gold medalist Edna Kiplagat, 2015 Boston, Prague and Las Vegas winner Caroline Rotich and 2012 Boston, Hamburg, Toronto, Torino and Singapore winner Sharon Cherop all of Kenya.
The men's line-up in Marugame is headed by reigning world marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui who is the fastest on paper with a 59:38 personal best.
Other standout entrants include Australia's reigning Commonwealth half marathon champion Jack Rayner while Germany's Richard Ringer makes his debut at the distance.
"Each year presents a different challenge, and this season I want to work hard to reach the top and defend my title at the World Championships in Qatar," said Kirui.
"That campaign starts with the Marugame Half Marathon and I believe it is an important step for me in preparation for the Boston Marathon."