Wilson Kipsang winning the 2014 London Marathon (© Getty Images)
It was another day of Kenyan dominance in the British capital on Sunday (13) as world record holder Wilson Kipsang broke the course record to regain the Virgin Money London Marathon men’s title, while two-times world champion Edna Kiplagat finally claimed the women’s crown after finishing runner-up for the last two years.
Making the most of perfect conditions, they both led Kenyan one-twos as Kipsang shrugged off Stanley Biwott in the last mile of the race to cross the line 26 seconds clear in 2:04:29, while Kiplagat won a duel against her namesake, Florence Kiplagat, to win by three seconds in 2:20:21.
This was the fourth time Kenya have won both titles in London, while their great east African rivals from Ethiopia had to be satisfied with two third places.
Defending men’s champion Tsegaye Kebede took his fifth podium finish in six races here, while three-time Olympic gold medallist and marathon debutante Tirunesh Dibaba clinched third in the women’s, just 14 seconds behind the winner.
By contrast, the much anticipated debut of Mo Farah ended in disappointment as the double world and Olympic champion track champion failed in his bid to break the long-standing British record, finishing tired and drained in eighth place, his time of 2:08:21 more than a minute outside his target.
“I just had a bad day at the office,” he said.
Farah started with a second, slightly slower group and never saw Kipsang from the moment they left the start line.
When the Kenyan won his first title here in 2012, he crossed the line more than two minutes clear after dominating the race in the second half. This year, he bided his time, kicking away from a pack of eight after 30km with a burst that only Biwott could match.
The two ran shoulder-to-shoulder for 10km, past the Tower of London and on to the Embankment, before Kipsang made his move with just over two kilometres left.
From that point, he never looked in trouble and made up for a sluggish first half to break Emmanuel Mutai’s course record by 11 seconds.
“It’s really great to win the London Marathon again, and I hope to do it again very soon,” said Kipsang.
“It was around 31km that I decided to push harder as I felt very comfortable and strong. I pushed again towards the finish line and that’s when I broke away.”
It was an impressive effort from the 32-year-old who added a second London title to his world record victory at the Berlin Marathon last September, his seventh win in 10 career marathons.
“I feel I performed very well here,” said Kipsang, who earned a US$25,000 bonus for the course record. “There were a lot of strong guys and it was a tactical race. My plan worked very well."
Kiplagat’s win was harder to come by.
She and Florence Kiplagat broke away from Dibaba when the Ethiopian stopped to pick up a dropped drinks bottle at the 30km feeding station.
Florence initially looking stronger before Edna took over in the lead in the final 200m.
Florence K broke the world half marathon record recently and many were tipping her to win, but after three minor medals her in the past, this time Edna was having none of it.
“I felt very strong so I wasn’t too worried,” she reflected on the close finish.
Fourth time the charm for Edna
For her, this was just reward for dogged perseverance as the 34-year-old runner finally reached the top of the London podium after two second places and a third in her three previous races here.
“For the last three years I have tried here, but I couldn’t keep up,” she said. “I believe in trying again and this time I did it. I knew I had experience so I have focused on speed in training. I knew at long last I could use it and finally win.”
It was a good day for the reigning women’s world champion, it was a bad one for the men’s as Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich finished 12th. It was a tough day too for the women’s London 2012 Olympic Games champion Tiki Gelana, who could only manage ninth.
As for that other high-profile Ethiopian, Haile Gebrselassie, the man tipped to be the perfect world record pacemaker, he only made it half way to his intended stopping point and dropped out after 15km.
By then Kipsang’s world record of 2:03:23 was pretty much safe and the halfway point was reached in 1:02:30, 45 seconds off the planned pace.
At that stage, there were still eight runners in contention, four Kenyans and four Ethiopians, but it was too slow for Kipsang, and the world record holder soon made his first move, swiftly transforming the group into a line although his injection of pace failed to thin the group.
Kebede kicked in a 4:30 mile to the 15-mile point and they passed 25km in 1:13:58 and 30km in 1:29:01, after which 2011 winner Emmanuel Mutai began to struggle.
By contrast, Kipsang looked utterly at ease and poised to strike. His moment came as they twisted around the tight corners of Canary Wharf and surprisingly it was Biwott who went with him as Kebede and Geoffrey Mutai rapidly lost ground.
Kipsang kick clinches Kenyan double
The two Kenyans suddenly had the streets to themselves.
Heading east towards Westminster, they hit 35km in 1:43:34 after a 5km of 14:33, the fastest since the swift opening stretch and were now back on course for a sub-2:05 finish.
The pair sped past the crowds along the Embankment and passed 40km 1:58:12 at which point Kipsang finally kicked away, his low swinging arms working hard to shake off his shadow.
Biwott quickly lost 20 metres, but he managed to hold onto second place, lowering his personal best by 17 seconds.
As for Kebede, third place was a remarkable result for a man who contracted typhoid just a month ago.
“I knew at the end I couldn’t go with them,” reflected Kebede. “I just felt empty.”
In the women’s race, the pacemakers Joyce Chepkirui and Josephine Chepkoech had been asked to take them to half way in under 1:09:30 with Paula Radcliffe’s women-only world record of 2:17:42 the ultimate target.
Along with the pacemakers, defending champion Priscah Jeptoo led a group of six through much of the first half and they passed 21km bang on schedule in 1:09:15, before Feyse Tadese and Aberu Kebede dropped back.
It was now Dibaba against the Kenyans.
With four of them in the group – and only three medals up for grabs – something had to give, and that, to everyone’s surprise, turned out to be Jeptoo.
Despite looking strong and running at the front, the reigning champion stopped suddenly after 17 miles and stepped off the course, leaving the two Kiplagats running side-by-side, with Dibaba a stride or two behind.
However, the great track runner showed her marathon inexperience, dropping her drinks bottle at the 30km feeding station
She sensibly stopped to pick it up but the Kenyan pair sensed an opportunity to pull away and picked up the pace, putting in a 5:16 mile to open a 20-metre gap on their Ethiopian rival.
The Kenyan duo continued to look relaxed and talked to each other as they went through 35km in 1:56:07, with Dibaba hanging on 12 seconds further back, neither closing the gap nor losing touch.
At 22 miles, Florence K briefly made a move, but Edna was saving herself. They passed 40km in 2:13:02 before entering the final 200m in The Mall together.
Florence took an inside line around the final corner to cut Edna off but as the course opened up again the two-time runner-up found another gear and sprinted away from her namesake.
Dibaba followed Florence home in third, finishing in 2:20:35. Her fellow Ethiopian Tedese finished strongly in fourth in 2:21:42, with Kebede fifth in 2:23:21.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF