Mary Keitany will run the 2018 London Marathon on April 22 with male pacers in hopes of not only defending her title from last year but also breaking Paula Radcliffe's world record of 2:15:25, which was set in 2003.
Last year, Keitany ran 2:17:01 to break Radcliffe's women's-only marathon world record. Keitany's half-marathon split was faster than Radcliffe's split from the 2003 world record. Keitany and Radcliffe own six of the 10 fastest times in history for the 26.2-mile distance.
“I know the record was set by Paula Radcliffe on this course in 2003 and that she is a very popular person in Great Britain but I really hope the London crowds get behind my challenge and can help drive me on to achieve something incredible,” Keitany said in a statement on Thursday.
Radcliffe was 29 years old when she won in 2003. Keitany has defied the longevity of modern marathoners by running well into her 30s. She turned 36 years old last week. This will be Keitany's sixth time running the London Marathon. She has previously won in 2011, 2012 and 2017.
Watch the end of Radcliffe's 2003 world record run below:
Last October, Radcliffe spoke to SI.com about her 2:15:25 world record and why it has stood for so long.
"The depth of women’s marathoning is moving forward at the same time. It’s difficult because you have that mythical barrier of two hours in the men’s race," Radcliffe said. "They’re approaching it and we’re all getting caught up in the story and mythology of it. 2:15 doesn’t sound as good for women. But if you relate the two performances, it’s absolutely as good. I think everybody gets caught up in it and it’s very hard to beat that. Mary’s been very focused on running her races, running the times and getting the victories. What we want to see if more races with women running together to push each other forward."
Although having been considered the heavy favorite for last year's New York City Marathon, Keitany faltered in the last few miles before finishing second to Shalane Flanagan, who became the first American woman to win the race in 40 years.
The 2018 London Marathon women's elite field was revealed in its entirety on Thursday. It includes three-time Olympic gold medalist and 2017 runner-up Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia as well as 2017 World Championship marathon gold medalist Rose Chelimo of Kenya.
The United States will be represented by elites Stephanie Bruce, Allie Kieffer, Becky Wade, Alia Gray and Liz Costello.