Jelena Prokopcuka is chasing Grete Waitz.
Prokopcuka is trying to become the first woman to three-peat at the New York City (NYC) Marathon since Waitz in 1986. She's also competing with Gete Wami for the World Marathon Majors title and the US$500,000 prize.
"The New York Marathon is my favorite marathon," Prokopcuka said at a news conference on Wednesday. "To have a chance to win for the third time and the marathon majors is very exciting for me."
Waitz, a nine-time winner in New York, captured three consecutive titles from 1978-1980 and 1982-1986. She won her last laurel crown in 1988.
Wami is attempting to run her second marathon in 35 days after winning in Berlin. That victory gave her a 10-point lead in the race standings, and convinced her to enter the five-borough race in New York City.
"During the [Berlin] race, once I knew I was going to win, I didn't run with full force," Wami said.
After two years and 10 races, the chase for the inaugural World Marathon Majors women's title is coming down to the final event. Robert Cheruiyot wrapped up the prize on the men's side, but Prokopcuka must finish third or better to capture the title.
Prokopcuka won the NYC Marathon last year in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 5 seconds. She finished second in the Boston Marathon the past two years.
"My preparation was good, I've had a lot of hard workouts," said Prokopcuka, who's been training in the hills of Kaariuku, Estonia.
The 32-year-old Wami would be the first to win two major marathons with such a short turnaround. In 1983, Waitz won the world championship and New York City Marathon in a span of 11 weeks.
Wami, who took two weeks off after defending her title in Berlin, has been training in Ethiopia. She came directly to the news conference from the airport with her coach Getaneh Tessema and an interpreter.
"Ethiopia has quite a bit of highland terrain and flatlands as well," Wami said. "I've trained for both."
Wami, who finished second at the London Marathon this year, ran her first NYC Marathon in 2005 and was seventh in 2:27:40.
Others in the field on Sunday include world record holder Paula Radcliffe, Olympian Catherine Ndereba and Boston winner Lidiya Grigoryeva.
Prokopcuka will run the race in memory of her father-in-law, Sergei, who died this summer. The death affected her training, but she said she's ready to three-peat.
"I didn't go to Berlin this year because I wanted to think about New York," the 31-year-old Prokopcuka said. "For me, it's impossible to run five weeks between two marathons."
Wami, a three-time Olympian, is thinking ahead to representing Ethiopia in the Beijing Olympics. The runner with the fastest time qualifies for the team.
"The next significant race after the New York City Marathon will be the Olympics, and I'll have enough time to recover. I don't think these two races in such a short time will wear me down," Wami said.