Rose Chelimo made history for Bahrain as she earned her country its first ever gold in the women’s marathon at the World Championships in a slow-burning race that flared into dramatic life over the final seven kilometres as she won a personal duel with Kenya’s 2011 and 2013 winner Edna Kiplagat, who in turn secured silver by a stride from the fast-finishing US runner Amy Cragg.
In what was only her fourth marathon, the 28-year-old Chelimo finished in 2:27:11 after resisting what looked like a decisive break from her 37-year-old Kenyan rival inside the final mile and regaining a lead she would not relinquish.
As the leaders vied for gold, Cragg was engaged in a struggle for bronze with a second Kenyan, Flomena Cheyech Daniel, finding the energy to sprint clear as she reached the final stretch before the finish line on Tower Bridge.
Indeed, Cragg, her face set with effort, came within a metre of silver as she all but caught the flagging Kiplagat, who had been seeking an unprecedented third world marathon title, with both women clocking 2:27.18.
"I am very happy,” said Chelimo, who finished eighth at the Olympic Games last year. “I was not expecting to win today, I tried my best and I managed to become the world champion.
"Edna Kiplagat is strong. At 35km I pushed, after some time Edna came and I said to myself 'let her go', I already accepted to be second. But then I caught her, I was encouraged and thought ‘maybe I can try’ and I succeeded.
"Marathon is hard, but it is not hard when you train. Then it is easy.
"My life will change because I am a world champion for my country now. It is so special for Bahrain, the country is so happy for me to be the winner in 2017. They support me a lot.
"My next ambition is the Asian Championships next year.”
Kiplagat commented: "I thought I had broken her (Chelimo) but she was so strong this time and managed to outsprint me.”
Cragg commented: "This was the year's focus, I knew it could be a great race for me and I started to get excited at the start of the final five kilometres. I had to dig in deep but to achieve this feels special."
For the first two hours of the race, the pack from which the medallists came tracked behind two unlikely leaders. The first, 23-year-old Catarina Ribeiro, led the field through 10km in 35:35 before being supplanted by 38-year-old home runner Alyson Dixon, who was 32 seconds ahead at the halfway point, reached in 1:14:20, and still 14 seconds up as she passed 25km in 1:28:03.
The Briton was caught shortly before the 30km mark, with Kiplagat leading at that point, although she remained stubbornly in the lead group for another five kilometres before drifting back to 18th place in 2:31:36.
Australia's Jessica Trengove led the field through 35km in 2:03:47 at which point, suddenly, the race proper began.
Chelimo surged. Her teammate Eunice Kirwa, who had taken bronze two years earlier and who finished in silver position at last year’s Olympics, could not respond, nor could Ethiopia’s defending champion, Mare Dibaba. But Kiplagat could. And so could Cragg. And so could Daniel.
After two hours and 20 minutes of racing, Kiplagat made what looked like the decisive move. Not so. That came as Chelimo responded to the challenge and moved away effectively unchallenged.
The 33-year-old Cragg, meanwhile, appeared to be having to work harder than Daniel to stay in contention for bronze. But she too found an extra surge of energy that earned her a reward that prompted tears of joy at the finish line.
Shure Demise was the first Ethiopian home, fifth in 2:27:58, with Kirwa sixth in 2:28:17, one place ahead of Kenya’s 2015 silver medallist Helah Kiprop, who recorded 2:28:19. Dibaba was eighth in 2:28:49.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF