When Tiki Gelana won Olympic gold in London last year she was only doing what has become expected of a runner from the small town of Bekoji, some 170 miles south of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The 25-year-old became the latest in an illustrious list of Olympic winners from the town. Fatuma Roba – who won the 1996 marathon – Tirunesh Dibaba, Deratu Tulu and Kenenisa Bekele have all run out of Bekoji and into the Olympic record books.
“Coming from somewhere that’s produced such great runners inspires me every day,” said Gelana, who makes her London Marathon debut on Sunday. “I see local runners winning gold medals and that gives me a real morale boost.”
There is one feature that does make Gelana stand out – she revels in running in the rain. Poor weather hampered most of her rivals in London but she produced a remarkable second half of the race, completing it in under 70 minutes to snatch a surprise gold by five seconds from the Kenyans.
It is the Kenyans who will again challenge her tomorrow. Priscah Jeptoo, training partner of this week’s Boston winner Rita Jeptoo, won silver behind Gelana at the Olympics, and is one of four Kenyans in the elite field. Experienced Japanese runner Yoko Shibui will also expect to challenge.