ATLANTA (AP) _ Not long after dawn Sunday, with the last of the Olympic revelers barely tucked into bed, the women's marathoners will begin their long, winding trek through the sleepy streets of Atlanta.

To avoid the worst of a Georgia summer day, the start of the race was moved up to 7 a.m. EDT. But even that early in the morning, heat and humidity are a concern and some have gone to great lengths to prepare.

American Linda Somers, for example, rode for hours a day on a stationary bicycle in a steam room. Her teammate Jenny Spangler has been training in Atlanta the past two weeks to get used to the weather.

Others wouldn't divulge their special training tricks.

``We had some nice ideas, but I can't tell you until after the marathon,'' said Uta Pippig of Germany, three-time defending Boston Marathon champion and one of the Olympic favorites.

The race winds 26.2 miles through and around Atlanta before ending at Olympic Stadium.

Of the 90 runners entered, contenders in the unpredictable race include Pippig, Manuela Machado of Portugal, 1992 gold medalist Valentina Yegorova of Russia, 1992 silver medalist Yuko Arimori of Japan and her countrywoman Junko Asari.

The third American in the race is Anne Marie Lauch. None of the three U.S. entrants are considered medal threats.

Pippig normally competes in just one marathon per year, but she'll be running her second in a little over three months after her difficult win in Boston on April 16.

After the race, she was hospitalized for two days for intense diarrhea and menstrual problems. She said she has recovered completely and believes the experience will make her tougher in Atlanta.

``I said to myself it can never be worse than the feeling I had then,'' Pippig said. ``It's very special for me that I could come out of that race in Boston with such mental strength.''

Pippig's Boston Marathon time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 12 seconds ranks fourth in the world this year. Her all-time best is 2:21 in Boston two years ago.

Many pick Machado because she won the 1995 world championship last year in extremely hot weather in Gothenburg, Sweden. She also was a convincing winner of the European championship in Helsinki in 1994. She was seventh in Barcelona four years ago.

Arimori, the first Japanese woman to win a medal in an Olympic running event since 1928, left the sport after Barcelona and didn't race again for more than three years. She underwent surgery on both heels two years ago and returned to competition in 1995, winning the Hokkaido, Japan, marathon.

Arimori's teammate Asari won the 1993 world championship.

Since her gold medal performance in Barcelona, Yegorova has won the Tokyo Marathon twice (1993 and 1994) and was second in Boston in 1994 and in Tokyo in 1995.