Eliud Kipchoge completed his hat trick as he extended his record at the distance to 10 wins from 11 starts at the London Marathon on Sunday 22nd April.
Kipchoge completed another Kenyan double as Vivian Cheruiyot ran an excellently judged race to claim her first World Marathon Majors wins as defending champion Mary Keitany from Kenya and Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba both faltered in their bid to break Paula Radcliffe’s long-standing world record of 2:15:25 on a warm morning in the British capital.
Three distinct groups formed in the first three miles of the women’s race with Dibaba and Keitany at the helm, running side-by-side behind a trio of male pacemakers who were reintroduced into the women’s race for the first time since Radcliffe’s record-breaking run in 2003.
Keitany and Dibaba, who were sportingly sharing drinks in the opening segment, were ahead of Radcliffe’s schedule through five kilometres in 15:46 and 10 kilometres in 31:46. At this point, Cheruiyot was part of the third group who were themselves still on sub-2:20 pace in 32:53.
Dibaba was second to Keitany last year but the Chicago Marathon winner, who was contesting the fourth marathon of her career, began to lose touch with Keitany – and the three pacemakers – in the ninth mile, the result of a preceding eighth mile of 4:57.
But Dibaba still had Keitany in her sights on Tower Bridge. The leader reached the 20-kilometre checkpoint in 1:03:50 with Dibaba only 15 seconds in arrears while Cheruiyot was making good progress, moving up to third in 1:05:31 alongside compatriots Gladys Cherono and Brigid Kosgei.
After reaching halfway in 1:06:54 last year, Keitany passed through the corresponding point still inside world record pace at 1:07:16. But, unlike 12 months ago when her sole pacemaker Caroline Chepkoech peeled off the course just beyond Tower Bridge, Keitany still had two pacemakers for assistance.
But the first clear-cut sign the record was ebbing away – and Keitany was in trouble – came in the 15th mile in 5:30. Having been no more than a stride behind the pacemakers in the first half, the three-time champion was now struggling to stay in contact with them.
While Keitany was beginning to slow, Dibaba came to a halt altogether in the 19th mile after she was passed by Cheruiyot and Kosgei who then had the leader in their sights. Dibaba, who momentarily stopped in last year’s race, plaintively tried to rally again before dropping out.
Keitany still had a cushion of 1:16 at the 30-kilometre checkpoint in 1:37:03 but the gap to the pursuers was closing with every mile: 5:30 for mile 19, 5:27 for mile 20 and then 5:42 for mile 21.
Keitany’s next mile was a ponderous 5:50 and she had no response when Cheruiyot breezed past with a 22nd mile of 5:16. Cheruiyot’s one-minute plus deficit at the 30-kilometre checkpoint in 1:38:19 was now a 1:22 lead at the 40-kilometre checkpoint in 2:11:08.
Cheruiyot said she was chastened by her debut last year when she paid the price for an over-exuberant first half but the 34-year-old duly learned from that experience, running consistent splits of 1:08:56 and 1:09:34 to cross the finish-line on The Mall in 2:18:31, moving to fourth on the world all-time list still headed by Radcliffe’s mark from 15 years ago.
Contesting her third marathon in a little over six months, Kosgei – who has run well in warm conditions in the past with two Honolulu Marathon titles to her credit – whittled her lifetime best down to 2:20:13 to ensure a Kenyan one-two in the elite women’s race.
Ethiopia’s Tadelech Bekele, who was sixth at halfway in 1:09:47, was also rewarded with a 2:21:40 PB in third while Keitany hit the proverbial wall, shuffling across the finish-line in fifth in 2:24:27 in her bid to break one of the most redoubtable records on the books.