London, UKWorld record holder Paula Radcliffe in a time of 2:17:42 won the women’s race at the 25th edition of the Flora London Marathon today, the quickest ever clocking in a ‘women’s only’ race. It was the Briton’s third London career win. In the men’s division it was Kenyan Martin Lel who sprung a surprise to win in 2:07:26. Both times were the world’s fastest of 2005.
WOMEN – Radcliffe stops at 21 miles but still powers back on to win
The 31-year-old Radcliffe blasted to a five-minute victory over Romania’s Constantina Dita, 35, the 2004 Chicago Marathon champion, despite stopping for 15 seconds at 21 miles for a toilet break at the side of the road!
Radcliffe has now won five of her six career marathons, the only blot being at the Athens Olympics last year. She now has the three fastest marathon times in history, but she was a little disappointed not to break her personal best - the 2:15:25 World record which she ran with the aid of male pacemakers in London two years ago.
Radcliffe made her intentions clear from the start as she was the only one to go with the two pacemakers - Leah Malot and Restituta Joseph - in the opening mile which was completed in a swift 5:03. Defending champion Margaret Okayo and Susan Chepkemei - the woman who pushed Radcliffe so hard in New York - at that point were running together some 20 metres behind.
Organisers had admitted fears beforehand that the pacemakers would not be able to stay with Radcliffe as far as halfway and so it proved as Joseph and Malot were dropped after just six miles as the World record holder poured on the pace.
Okayo and Chepkemei tried to go with Radcliffe but she was powering away, roared on by an enthusiastic and expectant crowd. By 15km she was 38 seconds clear of Okayo with a further 19 seconds back to Chepkemei. Over the next 5km, that gap more than doubled to a minute and 24 seconds, with Dita now ahead of Chepkemei, and Australian Benita Johnson another two minutes adrift in fifth.
Halfway saw Radcliffe through in 68:27, Okayo 70:00, Dita 70:15, Chepkemei 70:17, Johnson 72:30, Joyce Chepchumba 72:36, Lyudmila Petrova 72:46, Mulu Seboka 72:54, Tegla Loroupe 73:03 and Sonia O'Sullivan completing the top 10 in 73:07.
Shortly afterwards, Dita - with little option in Radcliffe's wake but to abandon her usual fast-starting tactics - moved through into second and her more sensible pacing was to pay off as she took 45 seconds off her personal best.
Between miles 6 and 18, Radcliffe maintained a consistent pace with only five seconds separating the fastest and slowest miles, but she slowed to a 5:23 19th mile split. But she was still way out in front, almost two-and-a-half minutes clear of Dita.
She then ran a 5:11 20th mile, her fastest since the downhill third mile. Another fast mile (5:14) followed but there was then the drama at 21 miles when she suddenly stopped with cramps. As we were later to be told, she was desperate for a toilet break.
After 15 seconds she got back into her stride which was soon flowing again. Although slowing to a 5:37 mile due to the unplanned stop, she was still almost three minutes clear and if anything her stop gave her fresh impetus as she pulled a further two minutes clear of Dita to win in 2:17:42, with the Romanian crossing the finish in 2:22:50.
Chepkemei, just four seconds behind Radcliffe in New York, was more than six minutes behind her rival on this occasion as she took third (2:24:00), with defending champion Okayo, fourth (2:25:22).
With Lyudmila Petrova of Russia, 5th (2:26:29), former World Cross Country champions Johnson and Sonia O'Sullivan improved their personal bests with top 10 displays, respectively 2:26:32, 6th and 2:29:01, 8th. Splitting the two was former winner Joyce Chepchumba of Kenya in seventh, 2:27:01.
Once I stopped I was fine
But Radcliffe admitted her decision to delay making a toilet stop cost her an even faster time. "I felt from 15 or 16 miles that I wanted to go but I was reluctant to in front of however many thousands of people were watching on television. But it reached the stage where I had to because I was losing 10 seconds a mile for the three miles before I stopped. Once I stopped I was ‘fine’."
"If I'd stopped earlier I could have pushed the pace harder, but I think I proved a few doubters wrong. I think some people still don't get what happened to me in Athens, that's why they question whether I came into this race lacking confidence.”
"Confidence comes from training and preparation and this had been my smoothest marathon preparation yet, so I felt I was in shape to get close to my 2:15:25 World record. But everything needs to drop perfectly (into place) and it didn't quite. Apart from the stop, it was windy (weather conditions) in the second half of the race."
"I wasn't too sure how far I was ahead. Even if someone had called out the gap I wouldn't have heard because of the noise of the crowd. I'm not sure I liked the course change, it seemed to me to be more uphill - maybe that's just psychological though - but the noise from the crowd was more.”
”Some people said I'd never be the same athlete again after the Olympics, but I never felt that way. This time I had no worries about my preparation, whereas in Athens I was trying to fool myself that I would be okay. I'd been injured and then had glycogen depletion and I just pushed my body as far as it could go and it couldn't go any further, whereas today my body was strong as well as my mind."
Helsinki race decision
Radcliffe will see how quickly she recovers before deciding whether to go for the marathon or 10,000m at the World Championships in Helsinki. "Every marathon is different in terms of recovery, but it's also a really hard decision because I'd like to win a World title on the track and I'd also like to win a World title in the marathon."
MEN - Lel surprises the favourites
The men's race saw Kenyan Martin Lel, 26, spring a huge surprise to win in 2:07:26, the fastest time in the world this year.
Although he boasts a useful pedigree, having won the World Half Marathon title and the New York City Marathon in 2003, he only had a best of 2:10:02 so was not expected to seriously challenge his fellow Kenyans such as World record holder Paul Tergat and defending champion Evans Rutto.
And with many of the big guns in the lead group at 22 miles, Lel - although prominent - was arguably the least of the pack expected to triumph. The other five with him at that stage were Tergat, with a best time more than five minutes quicker than Lel; Sammy Korir, who was just one second behind Tergat when he set the World record; Rutto, undefeated at the distance in three outings; Jaouad Gharib, the World champion; and Hendrick Ramaala, the 2004 New York City Marathon winner.
Lel and Tergat began to edge ahead and then in the 24th mile Lel made an attack that took him clear, just as the likes of Tergat, Korir and Rutto were beginning to suffer.
He was never in danger of being reeled in as he ran strongly to the finish to take more than two-and-a-half minutes off his previous best time.
Gharib, who ran 2:07:02 for third last year despite falling and banging his head, took second this time (2:07:49) while Ramaala took 26 seconds off his previous best time in third (2:08:32).
Former winner Abdelkader El Mouaziz of Morocco was fourth (2:09:03), ahead of Italy’s Olympic champion Stefano Baldini (2:09:25), while Britain's Jon Brown improved his personal best in sixth (2:09:31). Tergat faded to eighth, while Rutto's unbeaten record came to an end in 10th.
And on a day when there was plenty of quality, there was also quantity with 35,680 starters - the highest the race has seen in its 25 years.
Bob Frank for the IAAF
1 Martin Lel (KEN) 2:07:26
2 Jaouad Gharib (MAR) 2:07:49
3 Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 2:08:32
4 Abdelkader El Mouaziz (MAR) 2:09:03
5 Stefano Baldini (ITA) 2:09:25
6 Jon Brown (GBR) 2:09:31
7 Toshinari Suwa (JPN) 2:10:23
8 Paul Tergat (KEN) 2:11:38
9 Sammy Korir (KEN) 2:12:36
10 Evans Rutto (KEN) 2:12:49
1 Paula Radcliffe (GBR) 2:17:42
2 Constantina Dita (ROM) 2:22:50
3 Susan Chepkemei (KEN) 2:24:00
4 Margaret Okayo (KEN) 2:25:22
5 Lyudmila Petrova (RUS) 2:26:29
6 Benita Johnson (AUS) 2:26:32
7 Joyce Chepchumba (KEN) 2:27:01
8 Sonia O'Sullivan (IRL) 2:29:01
9 Mulu Seboka (ETH) 2:30:54
10 Mara Yamauchi (GBR) 2:31:52
Mile time Split
1 5:03 5:03
2 10:15 5:12
3 15:13 4:58
4 20:28 5:15
5 25:50 5:22
6 31:08 5:18
7 36:24 5:16
8 41:38 5:14
9 46:53 5:15
10 52:06 5:13
11 57:20 5:14
12 1:02:38 5:18
13 1:07:53 5:15
14 1:13:04 5:13
15 1:18:16 5:12
16 1:23:30 5:14
17 1:28:45 5:15
18 1:34:01 5:16
19 1:39:24 5:23
20 1:44:35 5:11
21 1:49:49 5:14
22 1:55:26 5:37
23 2:00:43 5:17
24 2:05:54 5:11
25 2:11:13 5:19
26 2:16:34 5:21
1 4:50 4:50
2 9:46 4:56
3 14:25 4:39
4 19:19 4:54
5 24:17 4:58
6 29:10 4:53
7 33:58 4:48
8 38:44 4:46
9 43:33 4:49
10 48:23 4:50
11 53:12 4:49
12 57:57 4:45
13 1:02:48 4:51
14 1:07:30 4:42
15 1:12:15 4:45
16 1:17:00 4:45
17 1:21:52 4:52
18 1:26:43 4:51
19 1:31:41 4:58
20 1:36:35 4:54
21 1:41:39 5:04
22 1:46:48 5:09
23 1:51:44 4:56
24 1:56:22 4:38
25 2:01:19 4:57