London

Rothlin in record mood at Virgin London Marathon

European champion Viktor Röthlin believes he's in shape to break the European record of 2:06:36 in this Sunday's Virgin London Marathon, a mark first set on this course in 2000 by Portugal's three-time winner Antonio Pinto, the former course record holder

While that time was matched three years later in Paris by French athlete Benoit Zwierzchlewski, it remains over a minute quicker than Röthlin's current best of 2:07:23 and represents a significant improvement for the Swiss athlete. Indeed, no European athlete has gone inside 2:07 since 2006.

Röthlin's victory in Barcelona last summer capped an incredible return to form following serious illness and subsequent injury in 2009. He will make his London debut on Sunday, but his impressive marathon record dates back to 1999 when he clocked 2:13.36 in Hamburg.

He has re-written the Swiss national record book on four occasions since, most recently in 2008 with his first major marathon victory in Tokyo (2:07:23). He went on to finish sixth in the Beijing Olympic Games that summer with 2:10:35, but rather than open the door to even greater feats, Röthlin's career was temporarily halted in its tracks when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening thrombosis suffered on a flight from the United Arab Emirates to his training base in Kenya, which led to two pulmonary embolisms and a build up of chest fluid.

"It's a tough story, but I'm back after everything that happened in 2009 and to make that comeback in Barcelona was a big thing," he says. "If you lose something you love in your life, you realise it's part of you and you can enjoy it more.

"After that experience I wasn't even thinking about running, but about whether I would ever walk normally up the stairs again, or even stay alive."

While Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede - who joins Röthlin in an impressive line up, featuring eight of last year's top ten, including all three medallists - says he's confident that he can defend his Virgin London Marathon title and even target the world record, Röthlin is happy to admit that is beyond him.

"I know I'm not in world record shape," he joked in response to Kebede's comments. "But what I don't know is what shape I am in compared to when I ran my personal best. Physically and mentally I'm back where I was before 2009, and I think I'm back to the shape I was in before Beijing in 2008.

"I'm here to run one of my best times and I'll start the race wanting to run fast. If the race goes the way I want, I can hope for a European record, but my big target if I run well here is to come back to London for the Olympic Games."