Sally Kipyego debuts in NYCM tomorrow, by Cathal Dennehy for RunBlogRun

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I have watched Sally Kipyego race many times in her storied career. I have most enjoyed her racing Shalane Flanagan and Molly Huddle at the Payton Jordan Invite. Her battles with both fine Americans over 10,000 meters have been dramatic battles over twenty-five laps.

Now, Sally Kipyego is running her debut on Sunday over 26.2 miles. With her fine training, and the thoughtful coaching of Mark Rowland, Sally has been in good hands.

We look forward to seeing Sally race over the five boroughs in New York. Sally Kipyego reminds me of a patient runner or two that I have seen over the years.

If she is patient tomorrow, she could go far.

Kipyego_Sally1-Pre15.jpgSally Kipyego, PRE 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

When Sally Kipyego makes her debut at the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, it's not so much her competitors she'll be racing as the distance itself.

For the Kenyan track star, it is the great unknown quantity of 26.2 miles that presents her biggest challenge.

"I don't know how the body will adjust or cope," Kipyego admitted today. "It's a mystery. You really don't know what the marathon is going to do to your body."

Kipyego is a world and Olympic silver medallist over 10,000m and a former winner of the New York City Half Marathon, but on Sunday she faces some of the best exponents of the 26.2-mile discipline. Lining up alongside her will be defending champion Mary Keitany, Boston Marathon champion Caroline Rotich and London Marathon champion Tigist Tufa.

Even with her impressive credentials at the lower distances, there's no escaping the feeling Kipyego will not just be a fish out of water on Sunday, but one who's just been chucked in amongst the sharks.

"I can't think about times or positions," she says. "It's intimidating to think about the women running the race, but I'm just going to run against the best and see what I have. I just want to make sure I can run 26.2 miles."

The longest Kipyego has gone in training is 24 miles, so her apprehension at tackling the full distance is understandable, but after disappointment at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing - where she finished fifth in the 10,000m final - Kipyego sees her marathon debut as a chance to end her year on a high.

"I was very disappointed in Beijing," she said. "I made tactical mistakes, judgement mistakes, but that's life. It was not a good day for me, but I know the training is in my system and is not going anywhere. I had a low week of training after the race, then I got back into it."

To prepare for New York, the Oregon Track Club athlete took herself to Kenya, training with a group of top female athletes in Iten.

She stayed in touch with coach Mark Rowland in Eugene, Oregon through conversations on Skype and Whatsapp, and as she geared up for her debut, sought advice from several wise marathon minds, including her brother Michael, a former winner of the Tokyo Marathon.

"I've been doing about 110, 115 miles a week," she says, which is well above her usual norm of 80 to 90. "I have gone quite high with mileage and my body was a bit beat down, so it's been a little bit challenging, but fun. It's been a little spark, something new, and has thrown me out of my comfort zone."

In choosing her debut race, New York seemed a natural choice, given the timing - nine months out from the Olympics - and because the city holds good memories for the 29-year-old. "I've always had great success in New York," she says, "from track to road racing, mile, 5K, half marathon. Who knows, maybe the 26.2 will be good to me?

"I'm doing things I never thought my body could handle. It's been fun watching my body react, with crazy long runs. I've done the best training I can do to get ready, and I hope it will carry me through."

Given the caliber of the opposition, Kipyego has no set plan for Sunday, but will try to go with the leading contenders if her body allows. "I'll make judgement calls along the way and see how I feel," she says. "It is intimidating, but I will also try to run with them."

Kipyego_SallyFV1a_Payton11.jpgSally Kipyego, Stanford 2011, photo by PhotoRun.net

And if Sunday's race brings a good result, will that see Kipyego turn her back on the track for a new career on the roads as the Olympic Games looms into view?

"I'm not committing 100pc," she says. "As of now I'm a 10K runner who's running a marathon, so we'll see what happens. This is a race against the distance more than anything else."

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