Olympic 5000m finalist overcomes strong men’s Cross Challenge line-up, while Gemma Steel clinches the women’s race
Kipsang rules on roads of LondonApril 13, 2014
Kenyan world record-holder smashes the course record, while Mo Farah settles for an English record in eighth
Wilson Kipsang beat arguably the strongest field in London Marathon history with a course record of 2:04:29 as Mo Farah struggled on his debut back in eighth place in 2:08:21.
It was a baptism of fire for Farah as he failed to break Steve Jones’ British record of 2:07:13 and had to be content with beating Charlie Spedding’s English mark of 2:08:33 instead.
Once again Kenya proved they are the masters of the marathon. Kipsang’s fellow countryman, Stanley Biwott, also cracked 2:05 as he finished 26 seconds behind in second, while there was a Kenyan one-two in the women’s race with Edna Kiplagat out-sprinting her namesake Florence Kiplagat on The Mall to win in 2:20:21.
The top Ethiopians had to settle for third place on the podium in both elite races, with 2013 winner Tsegaye Kebede recovering from a recent bout of typhoid to clock 2:06:30 in the men’s race and Tirunesh Dibaba running 2:20:35 on her debut after losing ground at 30km after she dropped a bottle at a drinks station.
Most attention focused on another debutant, though – the Olympic and world 5000m and 10,000m champion Farah. Initially, his plan to hold back off the world record pace of the leaders looked smart, but during the middle section of the race he found himself detached from pacemakers and running alone as he tried to claw back the one-minute deficit.
Ultimately he began to fade in the final 10km and firstly drifted outside UK record pace and finally settled for eighth place just behind Tsegaye Mekonnen, Geoffrey and Emmanuel Mutai, who finished in fifth to seventh respectively.
“That was tough. I’m very disappointed,” said Farah, who despite his efforts was in far better post-race shape than at last month’s NYC Half where he had collapsed. “I didn’t really know what to expect. Training went well. The crowds were exciting and really helped me along.”
Farah agreed that it was far from ideal to be in no man’s land for so much of the race, though. “You learn and life goes on,” he said. “From 16 miles on, my legs felt heavier and heavier and heavier.”
But will he return to the marathon after a debut that saw him not only finish almost four minutes behind the winner but also well over a minute adrift of a UK record which was set in 1985 by an athlete who earlier this week described himself as “a journeyman” compared to Farah?
“I’ll be back,” he said. “One hundred per cent. I can’t leave it here.”
Others fared worse. Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic and world champion from Uganda, was 12th. Ibrahim Jeilan, Farah’s Ethiopian nemesis on the track, dropped out after 35km after falling off the pace, while Haile Gebrselassie, the celebrity pacemaker, ducked out before the leaders hit halfway in 62:30.
Chris Thompson, also on his debut, ran a solid 2:11:19 in 11th but Scott Overall struggled to match his 2:10:55 PB and gritted it out to finish in 2:19:55.
In the women’s race, Tiki Gelana, the Olympic champion from Ethiopia, was dropped early on and finished ninth in 2:26:58, while Priscah Jeptoo, the 2013 London winner from Kenya, pulled up at 18 miles after being prominently positioned for much of the race.
“The pacemakers went too early for me, so I had to push myself,” said the 32-year-old Kipsang. “At around 31km it was then I decided to push harder as I felt comfortable and strong. And then I pushed towards the finish and that was when I broke away.”
Elsewhere, the third, fourth and fifth British men home were Steve Way in 2:16:25, John Gilbert in 2:16:44 and Ben Livesey with 2:17:43.
When it came to female domestic contenders, Amy Whitehead ran 2:34:20 and Emma Stepto clocked 2:36:05, while Scottish-based Irishwoman Nicola Duncan ran 2:33:28.
The wheelchair race saw David Weir thwarted in his quest to win a record seventh title as he was outsprinted by Marcel Hug of Switzerland. Tatyana McFadden of the United States retained her women’s title after having recently won silver in the cross country skiiing at the Sochi Paralympics.
» The April 17 issue of Athletics Weekly is a Virgin Money London Marathon special with in-depth coverage of the men’s and women’s races, age-group battles, wheelchair races and Mini London Marathon