There will be neither Paula Radcliffe nor Mary Keitany (KEN), the London marathon victor last April, or even Liliya Shobukova (RUS) involved but the first virtual final of the XIII World Championships has got plenty to look for as there is a bundle of girls with times in the 2h20 to 2h23 region, particularly coming from the powerful squads of Kenya and Ethiopia, and anything could happen in an event so unpredictable and with such fine differences between athletes at the top. Further, an athlete’s performance over such a distance can be so volatile in that it turns equally on his physical state and energy levels on the day, the lie of the course and, of course, weather conditions.

Unless there is an overwhelming favourite like Radcliffe or Joan Benoit (later Samuelson) used to be, predicting the outcome of a marathon is pretty much a shot in the dark. So I’m going to take a stab at it and gamble on a Far Easterner, Japanese Yoshimi Ozaki (2h23:56), for two main reasons; she is the silver medalist from Berlin two years ago, meaning she has got a good championships pedigree, and she is going to be far more suited to the warm and humid conditions that usually prevail in Korea, let alone she must have had the chance to spend much more time on the course than most of her rivals. And in a marathon knowing a course well is essential.

Aselefech Mergia (ETH, 2h22:45) was the bronze medalist from the last global championships and has shown in good shape this season winning in Dubai so I feel she’s got a decent chance of making her way on that podium again while Kenyan Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat (2h20:46) has made a big breakthrough of nearly eight minutes this season and should figure high in the race on the strength of her time.

Others to look out for are Prisca Jeptoo (KEN) with 2h22:55 (PB), Bezunesh Bekele (ETH) on 2h23:42, Atsede Baysa (ETH) on 2h23:50 and Swedish surprise Isabellah Anderson with 2h23:41 but nothing should be ruled out to come from behind.

Prediction: 1.Yoshimi Ozaki (JAP), 2.Aselefech Mergia (ETH), 3.Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat (KEN)