By BERNARD ROTICH
Defending Berlin Marathon champion Gladys Cherono is targeting to lower her personal best time and probably dip under two hours, 19 minutes in Sunday’s Berlin Marathon.
Cherono, who has been training in Eldoret, will be up against, among others, former two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat and Ethiopia’s distance running sensation Tirunesh Dibaba who is also the Chicago Marathon champion.
Dibaba, who is probably the biggest threat to the two Kenyans, graduated to the marathon after a stellar track career that saw her win consecutive gold medals in the Olympic Games and World Championships in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres.
Cherono won last year’s Berlin edition in 2:20:23 seconds, ahead of Ethiopia’s Ruti Aga who crossed the line in 2:20:41 while another Kenyan Valary Aiyabei was in third place after clocking 2:20:53.
Nation Sport caught up with her after speed work training at the University of Eldoret track where she said that she has done her part and is looking forward to good competition.
“My training has been good despite the rains. I’m happy I was able to complete my programme and I’m ready to tackle the world,” said Cherono.
The athlete said that her win in 2015 and 2017 motivates her to do well and she will be looking forward to run her personal best given that the course is a fast one.
“Berlin has a fast course and I am looking forward to run my personal best. The team is strong but I will run my race and my target is to win,” said Cherono.
The race will see her renew rivalry with Dibaba; a fierce opponent in the track events.
In 2013 during the World Championships in Moscow, Cherono bagged a silver medal in 10000m behind Dibaba before shifting to road races where she emerged a winner in the 2014 World Half Marathon in Copenhagen.
In 2015, Cherono in her debut Berlin Marathon managed to run her personal best of 2:19:25.
She didn’t participate in any race in 2016 after picking a hamstring injury which caused her to cancel New York Marathon. Her comeback saw her win the Berlin Marathon title in 2017 and she is looking forward to a repeat of the same in this year’s edition.
Cherono pays tribute to her husband, retired athlete Joseph Bwambok, whom she says has been very supportive during her preparations.
“My training went on well but I must thank my coach who is also my husband for the support he has given me. I’m going to do my best as one way of rewarding my family,” said Cherono.
Bwambok is optimistic that Cherono will do well and retain her title after a vigorous training.
“Cherono is strong and in good shape this year compared to last year. I’m happy she was able to finish her program well without an injury and we are expecting good results,” said Bwambok.
Cherono is also in the history books as the first African woman to win both 5,000m and 10,000m during the 2012 Africa Championships in Porto Novo.
Other athletes who are eyeing the prize includes Yebrugal Melese from Ethiopia who is the former Prague Marathon champion and her compatriot former Dubai Marathon champion Aselefech Mergia.