Kenyans win elite races, Brits take wheelchair crowns, while Claire Hallissey stakes her claim for Olympic selection with a big PB on thrilling day of racing
Kenyan domination of marathon running continued in the British capital on Sunday with terrific wins for Mary Keitany and Wilson Kipsang.
With a brutal late-race surge, Keitany defended her Virgin London Marathon title and smashed the Kenyan record with 2:18:37 – a time that only Paula Radcliffe and Liliya Shobukhova of Russia have beaten on the world stage. She also led four Kenyans under 2:21 with Edna Kiplagat runner-up in 2:19:50.
Kipsang was an even more dominant winner and clocked 2:04:44 – narrowly missing Emmanuel Mutai’s 2:40:40 course record – to beat fellow countryman Martin Lel and Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede by more than two minutes. The 30-year-old’s victory followed his super-quick 2:03:42 victory in Frankfurt last year, although there was no such luck for world record-holder Patrick Makau who was forced to drop out during the race, giving Kenyan selectors for London 2012 a headache.
“I knew when I went away they have to work very, very hard to beat me as I was feeling very good in myself,” said Kipsang. “I am sorry I didn’t break the record but winning is the most important thing for me.”
Keitany said: “I’m pleased with my run and the time was okay. The weather here all week has not been good but when I saw the sunshine this morning, I knew the weather would be right for me.”
Meanwhile, in the fight for places in the British Olympic team, Claire Hallissey put herself in pole position to join Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi in the GB squad for the Games in August with a 2:27:45 PB to finish first British woman home.
The 29-year-old improved her best of 2:29:27 to beat Freya Murray (2:28:10) and Louise Damen (2:31:37) and she will find out on Monday if selectors have given her the third place in the GB team ahead of Jo Pavey, who ran 2:28 in both London and New York City last year.
Indeed, it could also potentially be tight between Pavey and Murray for selection for the reserve slot in the marathon team. Murray, who was making her marathon debut, also ran quicker on Sunday than the 2011 marks of Pavey, who chose to gamble by sitting out this race.
Hallissey, a former swimmer and rower at Cambridge University, has a PhD in immunology and is based in the United States. If she is selected for the GB Olympic team, Pavey is expected to try to qualify for the 10,000m instead.
“I really enjoyed it out there and everything seemed to click into place,” said Hallissey. “It’s always difficult with a marathon as you never know until the finish if you’re going to keep it going and it was the fastest I’d ever been out in a marathon.
“I could feel the extra pace and it hurt. With so much at stake there was no point turning up and running conservatively and going for a slight PB. It was an all or nothing race, really. It’d be the chance of a lifetime to run in a home Olympics.”
Behind Hallissey, Murray and Damen, there were also good runs for Sonia Samuels and Amy Whitehead with 2:33:41 and 2:33:44 respectively.
Lee Merrien was the leading British male runner in 17th, but in a disappointing race for domestic men he finished outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:12:00 with 2:13:41. Scott Overall, who is already selected for London 2012, helped set pace in the early stages for his fellow countrymen but dropped out at 15km with a slight hamstring niggle.
Merrien beat his PB of 2:14:27 but the Guernsey athlete was frustrated to have to run by himself for much of the second half of the race and said fighting a headwind alone in the latter stages did not help him when he needed to speed up – not slow down – at that stage in order to break 2:12.
Behind Merrien, John Beattie and Phil Anthony clocked 2:16:38 and 2:16:40 respectively as the Olympic hopes of Overall’s training partner Benedict Whitby and debutante James Walsh gradually faded on the 26.2-mile journey.
After a week of showers and dull weather, ears of wet, cold and windy conditions did not materialise as a field of 37,000 runners gathered for the start on a bright, slightly chilly morning – almost ideal weather for marathon running.
Mini Marathon competitors aside, among the first to finish were wheelchair athletes and the elite races were won by David Weir and Shelly Woods.
“It was very tactical and we seemed to have a headwind most of the way,” said Weir, who clocked 1:32:26 to equal Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record of six London Marathon victories.
1 Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 2:04:44
2 Martin Lel (KEN) 2:06:51
3 Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 2:06:52
4 Adil Annani (MAR) 2:07:43
5 Jaouad Gharib (MAR) 2:07:44
6 Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:07:56
7 Emmanuel Mutai (KEN) 2:08:01
8 Marilson Gomes dos Santos (BRA) 2:08:03
9 Samuel Tsegay (ERI) 2:08:06
10 Feyisa Lilesa (ETH) 2:08:20
11 Abderrahime Bouramdane (MAR) 2:10:13
12 Bazu Worku (ETH) 2:10:14
13 Vincent Kipruto (KEN) 2:10:39
14 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) 2:10:41
15 Abreham Cherkos (ETH) 2:12:46
16 Bekir Karayel (TUR) 2:13:21
17 Lee Merrien (GBR) 2:13:41
18 Solonei Rocha (BRA) 2:14:57
19 John Beattie (GBR) 2:16:38
20 Phil Anthony (GBR) 2:16:40
1 Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:18:37
2 Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:50
3 Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 2:20:14
4 Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:20:57
5 Lucy Kabuu (KEN) 2:23:12
6 Aberu Kebede 2:24:04
7 Irina Mikitenko (GER) 2:24:53
8 Jessica Augusto (POR) 2:24:59
9 Atsede Baysa (ETH) 2:25:59
10 Jelena Procopcuka (LAT) 2:27:04
11 Claire Hallissey (GBR) 2:27:44
12 Koren Jelela (ETH) 2:28:05
13 Freya Murray (GBR) 2:28:10
14 Isabellah Andersson (SWE) 2:29:57
15 Maria Konovalova (RUS) 2:30:29
16 Louise Damen 2:31:37
17 Constantina Dita (ROU) 2:32:34
18 Irvette van Blerk (RSA) 2:33:41
19 Sonia Samuels (GBR) 2:33:41
20 Amy Whitehead 2:33:44
» Full coverage in Athletics Weekly magazine, out on Thursday.