London, UKEmmanuel Mutai and Mary Keitany produced two superb performances at the Virgin London Marathon this morning to win the men’s and women’s titles at this IAAF Gold Label Road Race for Kenya by impressive margins.
Mutai smashed the course record with a dominating performance that left the defending champion Tsegaye Kebede floundering in his wake, while Keitany won the women’s race in a time only World record holder Paula Radcliffe has ever beaten on the London course.
A year ago, Mutai made a late surge to finish second, but this time he left little to chance, bursting away after 20 miles and powering home in the last six miles to win in 2:04:40, half a minute quicker than Sammy Wanjiru’s record from 2009, making Mutai the fourth fastest man in history.
“Since I’ve come to run in London I have twice finished fourth and last year I was second,” said the 26-year-old who also picked up a silver at the World Championships and was second in New York last November.
“This year I have come back and my dreams have come true. I so much wanted to win a major Marathon and this time I did it.”
Keitany also made a dramatic burst to leave defending champion Liliya Shobukhova and a clutch of highly talented rivals in her wake. The World Half Marathon record holder strode home alone in 2:19:19 to move alongside Irina Mikitenko as the equal fourth fastest woman in history.
After smashing the World Half Marathon record earlier this year, Keitany has announced herself on the Marathon stage in superb style, improving her lifetime best by nearly 10 minutes.
Behind the winners, three-times London winner Martin Lel made a remarkable return to Marathon running to take second in the men’s race in a sprint finish ahead of 2010 Berlin champion Patrick Makau, completing the first medal sweep here since Britain filled the top three spots in 1985.
Both recorded 2:05:45, a time only 30 seconds outside his Lel’s personal best. It was an astonishing performance from the former champion as he was only added to the entries three weeks ago and hasn’t run a Marathon since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
As for Kebede, he had to be satisfied with fifth in 2:07:48 after Mutai ground his dreams of a World record into the London dust.
Shobukhova rallied in the final stages of the women’s race to take second in 2:20:15, while Edna Kiplagat added third in London to the New York title she won last year, finishing in 2:20:46.
Men’s race –
Kebede had looked superbly confident early on, grinning and waving to the crowd at the start line. He tucked in behind the pacemakers as the runners set off in near perfect conditions – 10 degrees, light clouds and virtually no wind.
A line of pacemakers took them through mile one in 4:50. The leaders had asked for 2:04 pace, so this was a steady start. A 10-strong bunch soon opened a slight gap on the rest and the race began to take shape. Among them were five Kenyans – Mutai, Lel, Makau, James Kwambai, and World champion Abel Kirui, plus Moroccan Abderrahim Bouramdane and two-times New York winner Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil.
The pace picked up through mile three and then they passed 5km in 14:34, six seconds quicker than at this stage in 2010, but still a tad down on their target; 10km in 29:25; and 15k in 44:27.
By the time they passed 10 miles, in 47:42, Mo Trafeh had paid for his early enthusiasm and disappeared off the back. They strode over the river at Tower Bridge and through half way in 1:02:45, now outside the World record target but still on course for Wanjiru’s 2:05:10 mark.
The last pacemaker fell away at 30k and Kebede began to make a move as they wound through Docklands and under Canary Wharf. By the time they emerged the group was down to six, Kebede shadowed by Mutai, Lel, Kwambai and Makau.
Last year only Kirui had stayed with the Ethiopian and he paid for his lone assault. This time Mutai and Lel unleashed a two-pronged attack and the reigning champion felt his crown begin to slip.
Mutai unleashed a 4:29 mile, the quickest of the race so far, and immediately opened a 100m lead, leaving Makau and Lel to fight for the lesser spoils. Now in bright sun, he forged on alone, recording a 5k split from 30 to 35km of 14:16.
He strode out along the Embankment without a single opponent in sight and by the time he rounded the final bend in front of Buckingham Palace he had time to enjoy the welcoming crowd. Mutai sprinted for the line to become the ninth man in history to break 2:05.
“I wasn’t thinking about the time, only about winning,” said Mutai. “But I improved my best from 2:06 to 2:04. I really can’t ask for more than that.
“Now I can say I am a great Marathon runner because I achieved two goals at once – I won London and I ran 2:04.”
Behind him Lel unleashed a furious sprint in the last few metres to beat Makau after the two had battled stride for stride over the final miles. Lel completed an astonishing return to racing as he dipped ahead of his compatriot.
“When Emmanuel went I thought I couldn’t stay with him,” said Lel. “I didn’t know how my body would respond and wanted to make sure I could finish.”
As for Makau, after winning in Rotterdam and Berlin last year he was happy to reach the podium on his London debut, revealing later that he’d fallen just after half way and almost dropped out.
“I had some problems with my knees and hips, so I was not confident,” he said. “I fell about 10 metres behind at 22k and thought about withdrawing, but I decided to go on again. I was not 100 per cent at the end.”
Women’s race –
Keitany showed her intentions from the start of the women’s race as a leading group of 10 quickly opened a 10 second gap on the rest. Shobukhova looked supremely comfortable as they passed through 5km in 16:18, right on the requested sub-2:20 pace. With her were Keitany, Kiplagat, Mariya Konovalova, and five Ethiopians – Askale Tafa, Atsede Baysa, Aselefech Mergia, Bezunesh Bekele and Aberu Kebede.
These nine crossed Tower Bridge, clocking 1:07:00 at 20k before passing half way in 1:10:38. As the pacemaker dropped away Shobukhova took the cue to push on. Immediately, Konovalova and Tafa slipped back but Keitany was now running shoulder-to-shoulder with the reigning champion.
The brilliant Kenyan was disappointed to finish third on her Marathon debut in New York last November, and was clearly in no mood for a repeat here. With barely a glance at her opponents, she put her foot down between miles 15 and 16 and kicked away from the Russian like a middle distance runner coming off the final bend of a track.
Within one blistering five-minute mile her opponents were beaten. It was a devastating burst, and she followed it by running each of the next three miles in under 5:10.
Keitany ran alone through the long loop around east London’s Isle of Dogs with her opponents now out of sight on the road behind her. She negotiated the twisting corners under Canary Wharf with ease and by mile 18 had stretched her lead to 27 seconds.
Her 5km split between 25 and 30km was 16 minutes exactly – a hammer blow the rest simply couldn’t match. She looked superb, striding out along Poplar High Street and turned to face west again with the City ahead of her.
Shobukhova, Kiplagat and Kebede became the leading chasers but soon Kiplagat and Shobukhova shrugged off the Ethiopian as they battled for the minor medals.
There was no catching Keitany, though. Despite letting her pace drop slightly through miles 20 and 21, she stretched her lead as the duo behind began to hurt, no doubt their pride bruised as much as their lungs.
As the temperature rose towards 14 degrees, the run-in was always going to be tough. But Keitany had time enough to enjoy the moment. She emerged into the sunshine on Victoria Embankment and pushed on for Westminster.
Turning into The Mall in glorious isolation, she sprinted for the line to record the quickest time in the world since Paula Radcliffe enjoyed her third victory here in 2005. Keitany is now behind only Radclilffe, Catherine Ndereba and Mizuki Noguchi on the world all-time list.
“I knew I could get my best time here,” said Keitany, the first Kenyan woman to win London since Maragret Okayo in 2004. “I knew this field would produce a good time,” she added.
Behind her Shobukhova unleashed her finishing surge to shake off Kiplagat. She’d predicted sub-2:20 here, and expected to win but had to be satisfied with second, her first marathon defeat in four races.
“I thought at first I would be able to catch Mary,” she said. “But her speed was so fast. I knew she has great speed from the Half Marathon so I wasn’t surprised. As soon as she went away I was already fighting for second place.
Kiplagat was also happy. “When Mary attacked I tried to run as fast as I can, but she was already gone,” she said. “I lost speed when Liliya went past me but when I saw my time at the end I couldn’t believe it.”
Bezunesh Bekele finished fourth in 2:23:42, just missing the medals again, as she did in 2010, while fellow Ethiopian Atsede Baysa was fifth in 2:23:50.
A record 22 women finished in 2 hours 30 or better, obliterating the previous record of 15.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF
1. Emmanuel Mutai, KEN 2:04:40
2. Martin Lel, KEN 2:05:45
3. Patrick Makau, KEN 2:05:45
4. Marlison Gomes Dos Santos, BRA 2:06:34
5. Tsegaye Kebede, ETH 2:07:48
6. Jaouad Gharib, MAR 2:08:26
7. Abderrahime Bouramdane, MAR 2:08:42
8. Dmitry Safronov, RUS 2:09:35
9. Serod Bat-Ochir, MGL 2:11:35
10. Mike Shelley, AUS 2:11:38
1 Mary Keitany, KEN 2:19:19
2 Liliya Shobukhova, RUS 2:20:15
3 Edna Kiplagat, KEN 2:20:46
4 Bezunesh Bekele, ETH 2:23:42
5 Atsede Baysa, ETH 2:23:50
6 Yukiko Akaba, JPN) 2:24:09
7 Irina Mikitenko, GER 2:24:24
8 Jessica Augusto, POR 2:24:33
9 Aberu Kebede, ETH 2:24:34
10 Mariya Konovalova, RUS 2:25:18