Today saw one of the most anticipated London Marathons in recent years take place, less than a week after the horrific scenes of Boston. But far from being preturbed by this, the crowds came out in their usually high numbers to support both the elite and 36,000 fun runners participating for a huge range of fantastic charities.
These crowds were not be disappointed either with drama throughout both the women’s, men’s and wheelchair races, and more importantly for many the most anticipated half marathon of all time. This is of course the debut of Mo Farah, one the heroes of the now infamous ‘Super Saturday’, on the London Marathon course, even if he was only to run half. This certainly didn’t stop the support for the double Olympic champion who was keeping the pace superbly with the more experienced marathon runners right until his finale on Tower Bridge just before the half way point.
The only slight downside to his appearance was that it did overshadow what was a superb men’s race this year, with many twists and turns meaning the winner wasn’t really assured until the 600 metres to go sign.
The first half of the race was blistering and the time looked sure to be a least a threat to the course record, if not the world record. They came through 30km just 10 seconds outside the World Record and left spectators eager to see how the crucial second half would play out.
The answer was not as fast, as the early pace clearly took is toll on those who had run above themselves in order to keep pace.
Thus, when Stanley Biwott broke away, it looked as if the race was over and it was only the fight for the lower places remaining. But this didn’t come to pass as the finishing issues once again plagued Biwott, who began to look increasingly uncomfortable, fatigued from the early pace.
This allowed course record holder Emmanuel Mutai to make up the 6 seconds on Biwott and he had soon seen off Biwott, looking powerful and to all involved like the winner of the race for a second time.
This was everyone accept Tsegeye Kebede who sensed the race wasn’t fully over and with an effort worthy of any marathon crown, made up a 28 second gap on Mutai, passing him with ease and instantly opening up a lead at the front of the race. From here, Kebede never looked like faltering and won the marathon with a time of 2:06:03.
He was joined in the top 3 by Emmanuel Mutai, who was 30 seconds behind Kebede and in third was Kebede’s team mate Ayele Abshero. It was a day to forget for Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda though as he had to settle for sixth.
In the women’s race, there was early drama as Olympic champion Tiki Gelana was hit by wheelchair athlete Josh Cassidy. This slowed the pace down and ultimately ended her race as despite keeping pace immediately after, it soon took its toll and she fell further and further back, clearly in discomfort. She eventually finished well out of contention, only just able to jog, which is not where she would have hoped to be, considering her success in London last August.
As the race progressed, a significant gap was created, isolating the front three from the rest of the field. This pack consisted of Edna Kiplagat the World Champion, Silver Medalist from London 2012 Priscah Jeptoo and Florence Kiplagat. However, this only lasted until the 8 and a half miles to go mark, when Edna Kiplagat and Jeptoo began to pull away.
The race then became a straight shoot out between the two Kenyan team mates, a battle that on this occasion Jeptoo was the victor of. At 21 miles, she ran 5:11 which was a stretch too far for her team mate and a gap began to open up. This eventually became unassailable for Kiplagat and Jeptoo went on to claim the victory with a time of 2.20.14. She was soon joined by Edna Kiplagat who finished second and a stunned Yukiko Akaba was clearly upset by missing out on her qualification time for the Japanese World Championship squad. However, when she learnt of her third place this was replaced with stunned happiness and this may now allow her entrance to the squad despite not making the time.
In terms of English representation, the first female home was Susan Partridge, who’s time of 2:30:45 meant that she was 15 seconds inside the 2:31:00 required for a place in the World Championship squad, sealing her place in Moscow.
It was a bad day for Great British wheelchair racing however, as the ‘Weirwolf’, David Weir, almost the forgotten hero of last summer, couldn’t win his 7th London Marathon crown and had to settle for fifth. Similarly, Shelley Woods looked out of sorts, finishing fifth in the women’s wheelchair race.
FInally, it also marked the start of Paralympic interested in the marathon, in the shape of the IPC Marathon World Cup. The first home was Chentouf El Amin, the legally blind Moroccan who won the T12 5000m a London 2012. Second place went to Abderrahim Zhiou of Tunisia and third place to the roaring Italian Alessandro di Lello, shouting Bellisimo as he crossed the line. Mention too goes to Richard Fairhead, the British double amputee who was the only competitor in his category and ran a time of 3:15.53, yet more success to add to his T42 200m gold from London 2012.
By Alex Knight (theknightlyblog)
(Image courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk)