Keitany relishes the rivalry at Rio Olympics marathon

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With one race in London in April, New York Marathon champion Mary Keitany is relishing the challenge of contesting for a medal at the Rio Olympic Games in August.

Keitany finished fourth at the Olympics in London, her last race before she took a two-year sabbatical to deliver her second child. She has returned stronger winning in New York and settling for silver at the London Marathon.

The two performances have reinforced her belief that she can finally strike gold at the Olympics in Rio in August.

"It is the biggest medal in sports and I am at my prime and it will be the biggest achievement for me if I win in Rio. But the test will be tough because everyone plans to do well and win a medal for her country," said Keitany, Sunday in Iten.

In November in New York, Keitany clocked 2:24:25, more than a minute clear of her closest pursuer. She then immediately turned her focus on the great, shiny target which now looms on the horizon in Rio.

"To win the Olympics, or to get a medal, would mean a lot," she said. "I'll go home now, get a rest, maybe wait for the team to be selected, but I'm ready to go and try to get a medal in Rio."

Though Keitany may play up the role of fortune, there was nothing accidental about the manner in which she earned her second title in New York, which was her fourth victory in a Marathon Major.

The 33-year-old's performance was a combination of natural talent, years of hard graft, and a racing wisdom gained through experience.

While Keitany was exceptional at the half marathon, her inevitable transition to the marathon was pockmarked by that well-known parent of success: failure.

"The marathon takes time to learn," said Keitany, whose last defeat at the half marathon came in 2007. "You learn by making mistakes and adjusting, how to put yourself at a comfortable pace and not always just pushing, pushing, which means you pay the price at the end."

In New York four years ago, Keitany learned the hard way. At the time, she held the half marathon world record at 1:05:50, and she duly blasted through the first half of the marathon in 1:07:56, which is still the fastest half marathon ever run by a woman in the city.

That exuberance cost her dearly in the closing miles, though, and with her tank running on empty, she faded to third in 2:23:38.

Mistakes, though, are only mistakes if you don't learn from them, and that was a lesson Keitany only needed to be taught once.

The following year, she took a second victory at the London Marathon, running an African record of 2:18:37, which made her as the second-fastest woman of all time.

On her return to New York in 2014, she adopted a new strategy, biding her time and outsprinting Jemima Jelagat to take victory in 2:25:07. And last year, she again showed admirable patience until the 20-mile mark.

"I learned lessons here in 2011," she said. "I understood the course this time, so I had to be patient and wait. I was very confident."

For Keitany, it was the perfect way to re-establish her supremacy after finishing second at the London Marathon in April.

"London was not good because I had malaria," she said. "For New York, my training was perfect and I was coming to defend my title."

Having made a successful balance between her professional and family life, Keitany sees no reason to change things in the build-up to the Olympics where, pending selection, she hopes to improve on her fourth-place finish from London 2012 - her only road-running performance to date in which she did not make the podium. Enditem

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