Kebede supreme as Farah enjoys London taster

Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia endured a brutal early pace to win the title he first won in 2010, while Mo Farah’s half-marathon experiment was a success

Tsegaye Kebede wins VLM 2013 (Mark Shearman)

Mo Farah enjoyed a taste of the Virgin London Marathon, but the main honours went to Tsegaye Kebede as he retained the men’s title he first won in 2010.

The Ethiopian took victory in 2:06:04 after a battle of attrition that saw the early stages run at a phenomenal sub-2:02 pace.

The brutal pace – which saw runners hit halfway in 61:34 – led to carnage in the latter stages as a succession of race leaders bit the dust. First Stanley Biwott of Kenya broke away and looked the likely winner, before fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai then hit the front at 23 miles and seemed poised to retain the crown he won in 2011.

Then Kebede, who won Olympic bronze in 2008 but was controversially left out of the Ethiopian team for the London 2012 Games, decisively passed Mutai in the final mile to score a thrilling, last-gasp finish.

Mutai held on to second with 2:06:33, with Ayele Abshero of Ethiopia third in 2:06:57, Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia fourth with 2:07:46, last year’s winner Wilson Kipsang of Kenya fifth in 2:07:47, Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda sixth in 2:08:05, Yared Asmerom of Eritrea seventh in 2:08:22 and Biwott fading badly to finish eighth in 2:08:39.

World record-holder Patrick Makau also struggled. The Kenyan was dropped from the early stages – even though he was running at 2:05 pace – although he battled on to clock 2:14:10.

A silence was observed at the start of the race in respect of the Boston bombing tragedy from earlier in the week. But on the course the noise and atmosphere was tremendous as good weather and the sight of Farah drew huge crowds.

Kebede also got a great reception during the exciting final stages. The 26-year-old Ethiopian has a great story too – when he was a child he used to run 6km after school every day to help his father collect firewood for $1 a day.

Amazingly, Farah said the early pace – which included 28:56 at 10km – was not that fierce and didn’t bother him unduly. He did, however, admit he made a real “mess” of getting drinks at the water stations and that it was a big lesson ahead of his full debut next year.

“I made a real mess of it. It really opened my eyes,” he said, while probably oblivious to the chaos that had occurred in the women’s race with Tiki Gelana clashing with wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy.

With Farah dropping out just before halfway at Tower Bridge and London Olympian Scott Overall pulling out at 25km after an injury-hit build-up, the first Briton to finish was Derek Hawkins in 2:16:50. With Susan Partridge being top Brit in the women’s race, it meant Scotland produced the leading domestic athletes on Sunday.

But Hawkins’ time was more than a minute slower than Paula Radcliffe’s world record and also came on the 20th anniversary of Eamonn Martin’s feat of becoming the last British man to win the race.

Perhaps this is something Farah can put right next year.

» The next issue of Athletics Weekly, out on Thursday April 25, features in-depth coverage from the 2013 Virgin London Marathon, including elite race coverage, wheelchair races, top age-group performances and Mini Marathon action.

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