Pavey in confident mood for Yokohama – preview
Jo Pavey feels her preparations for Sunday’s Yokohama Marathon have been her best to date and while the 39-year-old doesn’t have a specific time-goal in mind, Pavey is confident she can improve her 2:28:24 PB which she set on her debut in London last year.
While her preparations in the build-up to the London and New York Marathons were blighted by stress fractures, Pavey’s enjoyed a largely uninterrupted spell of training this autumn and her performances on the roads confirm she’s reaping the benefits of this. Pavey posted a 69:20 half-marathon in the Great North Run which compares favourably to her time of 70:49 last year and this was followed up with a 53:00 10-mile sharpener for victory at the Great South Run.
Unlike the notoriously undulating New York course which Pavey ran on last year, the profile of the Yokohama Marathon is very flat which was one of the key factors that swayed her towards choosing this race for her autumn marathon. The organisers have also arranged some high-calibre pacemakers, including sub-2:25 competitor Maria Konovalova, which should greatly benefit those in the elite-field looking for a PB or a quick time.
Pavey admits she’s still on a learning-curve as far as her marathon career is concerned and the differences in time-zones has meant she’s had to adapt her preparations accordingly by travelling to her race destination two weeks in advance. In terms of pacing too, Pavey might opt for a more conservative start as she was operating at low-to-mid 2:20-pace in the opening stages of her debut before fading in the second half. Even though the end-product was faster than her time in New York, Pavey is capable of a much faster marathon.
2012 has very much been Pavey’s resurgent year and she now has her sights set on making her fifth Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. A marathon PB would cap off one of her best seasons to date and her first marathon podium finish from this race isn’t out of the question either. Here’s a look at some of her main rivals on Sunday and see here for full elite-field.
Five potential winners
1 Lydia Cheromei
The Kenyan veteran is by far the fastest marathoner at 2:21:30 but her form appears to be slightly on the slide since registering that very fast time in January. After an ambitious start in the Prague Marathon in May, Cheromei was forced to drop out in the final 10km. She was also the arguable pre-event favourite for last month’s World Half-Marathon Championships but she finished fourth although her time of 69:13 was still respectable in testing conditions in Kavarna.
2 Remi Nakazato
Yokohama doubles up as one of the selection races for the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and the competition among the Japanese is always of a ferocious standard. At 24, Nakazato is one of the rising stars of Japanese marathon-running and she will be looking to qualify for her second World Championships team after finishing tenth in Daegu 2011. Finishing second last year in 2:24:29 shows she enjoys the course too.
3 Jelena Prokopcuka
The Latvian is one of a handful of last-minute entrants in light of the cancellation of the New York Marathon. Prokopcuka has been in good form as she rolled back the years at the Great North Run by lowering her seven-year-old half-marathon PB to 68:09 to finish fourth. While most well-known for winning New York twice, she’s also at home on the roads in Japan as she won the 2005 edition of the Osaka Marathon in a PB of 2:22:56. The only question is how much her preparations have been affected by having to alter her racing schedule so drastically.
4 Yukiko Akaba
Akaba is a rarity in Japanese marathon-running circles as she juggles motherhood with racing at an elite level. 2011 was her best season to date as she started her year with victory in Osaka in 2:26:29 before finishing sixth in London in a PB of 2:24:09. Akaba then took fifth at the World Championships and was only 21 seconds away from the bronze medal but perhaps running three high-level marathons in such a short space left Akaba a bit depleted for her spring marathon this year as her 2:26:08 performance in Nagoya proved insufficient for Olympic selection.
5 Mai Ito
Ito has been a consistent performer in the past eighteen months with a runner-up finish in Osaka last year and fifth in Nagoya this year in a PB of 2:25:26. She was also in the top-ten at the World Half-Marathon Championships.