Do the bookies lie? As favourite for this Sunday's Flora London marathon title at 5-2, the world record holder, Paul Tergat, will be hoping not. But one thing on which the 35-year-old Kenyan will not be taking even the faintest chance is the arrangement of his drinks along the course.
At last year's Olympics a mix-up at a drinks station crucially undermined Tergat's attempt to earn the gold medal that had twice been denied him on the track by Haile Gebrselassie.
On a day of stifling heat, he faded to 10th after missing his pre-prepared drink in the crush. "The only one I could take was the one put there by the organisers, which was very cold."
He pauses, before continuing with a rueful grin. "It gave me stomach cramps. I tried to cope over the last two kilometres. But I saw my race go. I saw my dreams evaporating.
"I said 'I am not going to stop. My country did not send me to go and stop but to go and compete.' If I didn't finish I could not have overcome the disappointment in life. But because I finished, I handled the situation."
Tergat took second place in London on consecutive occasions, only beaten by Khalid Khannouchi's world record of 2hr 5min 38sec in 2002. The following year he was fourth, and within five months he beat the world record by 43 seconds with 2hr 04min 55sec in Berlin.
"This is my fourth time in London, and I think I am ready to win now," maintains Tergat. He believes he can run at the top level for another four yearsafter a deliberately conservative racing career. "I want to see how far I can push myself," he says. "I'm still capable of preparing myself and forecasting more. I think it's also good to leave a mark for the coming generation." It is fair to say that he has already managed that achievement - but victory on Sunday would further enhance his legendary status.Reuse content