Mary Keitany hasn't raced since falling in the London Marathon © Getty Images
Mary Keitany hasn’t raced since falling in the London Marathon © Getty Images

Nairobi: New York marathon champion Mary Keitany of Kenya has not given up hope on making the Kenya Olympic marathon team despite being named on the reserve bench. This is what will inspire her as she lines up to defend her Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon in the Czech Republic on Saturday, reports Xinhua. Keitany hasn’t raced since falling in the London Marathon and even though she was only named as a reserve after finishing ninth in London, she hasn’t ruled out being called up to the main team. “I think that the real selection will be made the first of July. We are still finding the team. The coaches have not made up their final decision on who will compete in Rio Olympics and I am hopeful, that can change anytime,” she added.

The 34-year-old Keitany will return to the scene of her 1:06:38 course record in Prague while fellow Kenyan Stanley Biwott faces a stiff challenge in his tune up for the Olympic marathon. The race will be on Saturday. “I want to try and run fast but I don’t know if the weather conditions will allow me to challenge the course record. I think I’m fit, [but] first of all we must talk about the weather. The weather in Czech Republic is terrible, very hot,” she said.

But Keitany’s road to a repeat victory will not be easy as some best athletes in the history of the race will compete for the title. Leading that group of women will be 25-year-old Kenyan Violah Jepchumba, who in April stunned the road racing world with her victory at the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon in 1:05:51, moving her to third on the world all-time list. Only Florence Kiplagat (1:05:09) and Keitany (1:05:50) have ever run faster.

Since then, Jepchumba has gone on to record victories in Istanbul and Gothenburg with times of 1:08:18 and 1:08:01 respectively, meaning she heads to Olomouc with a string of five wins at the half-marathon distance. Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa, who finished second to Jepchumba in Prague in a personal-best time of 1:06:14, and Kenya’s 2014 Prague Half Marathon winner Joyce Chepkirui, who has a 1:06:18 personal best time, are equally capable of challenging for the top spot on the podium. Also running among the elite women will be Eva Vrabcova, a winter Olympian in cross-country skiing. Vrabcova qualified for the Czech Olympic team for Rio when she finished sixth at the Volkswagen Prague Marathon in 2:30:10.