Ethiopia’s pocket-sized power house Tsegay Kebede unleashed a late surge to regain the men’s title at today’s 2013 Virgin London Marathon IAAF Gold Label Road Race as Priscah Jeptoo led a Kenyan one-two to add the women’s crown to the Olympic silver medal she won on the same London streets last August.
Kebede produced one of the most dramatic finishes of recent years, coming from nearly a minute behind the leaders at 35km to overhaul Kenya’s course record-holder Emmanuel Mutai in the last quarter-mile. He sprinted across the line in 2:06:04, flashing a huge smile and victory sign at the photographers’ gantry.
The leaders had gone through half way well inside World record pace, but while many of the pre-race favourites wilted over the second half, Kebede judged it perfectly, getting stronger and stronger in the closing miles to claim his second London title after winning the Chicago Marathon last October.
In 2010 Kebede won from the front in rainy conditions; this time he battled back under cloudless skies for a victory that looked all but impossible just 3km from the end.
“I had a little pain in my side in the early part of the race,” he explained afterwards. “But as time went on, it got better and better. I could feel myself getting closer and closer to Mutai and that made me stronger.
“It was a great day to run the London Marathon, and even better to win.”
Mutai took the runner-up spot 30 seconds back, while Ayele Abshero ensured Ethiopia had two on the podium for the first time, finishing third in 2:06:57.
While there was joy for Ethiopia in the men’s race, there were tears in the women’s when Olympic champion Tiki Gelana collided with wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy at the 15km feeding station, falling to the ground.
Battered and bruised, she kept going to finish 16th while Jeptoo strode away from World champion Edna Kiplagat to take the title in 2:20:15, just a second outside the personal best she clocked to finish third last year.
“I knew this morning I was going to run well,” she said. “There was such a good field, you were always worried someone would do better, and it wasn’t until around 25 miles that I got my confidence back and felt I could win.”
Kiplagat finished second in 2:21:32, taking the runner-up spot for the second year in a row, while Yukiko Akaba sprung a surprise, coming from behind to claim third in 2:24:43, the first Japanese woman ever to make the London Marathon podium. Next page
Kebede times finish to perfection
A poignant 30-second silence preceded the men’s start, held in remembrance of those affected by the Boston bombings. When the claxon finally sounded, the leading men set off at a pelt, led by Dennis Kimetto and Wilfred Kirwa, the two quickest men ever over 25km.
They’d been set the task of taking the field through half way in 61:45 and to remain on 2:03:30-pace to 20 miles. It was a blistering start, with a pack containing some of the greatest names in Marathon running hot on their heels.
The pace was superfast, as 10 runners passed 10km in 28:56 – too fast for Patrick Makau who was first to slip back. After dropping out last year, it was another disappointing day for the World record-holder, who eventually finished 11th in 2:14:10.
The leaders remained on World record schedule to 15km, reached in 43:43, equating to a 2:03:00 finish. Among them were defending champion Wilson Kipsang, Boston Marathon course record-holder Geoffrey Mutai, and Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, plus Kebede, Abshero and Mo Farah, the Briton who hopes to make his Marathon debut here next year.
Farah stepped out, as expected, just before half way, his learning exercise over for now. The rest clipped through half way in 61:34, just 11 seconds quicker than planned.
By now the field was stretched as Mutai and Stanley Biwott began to make the running. They passed 25km in 1:12:58, still on World record pace, before four runners broke away – Mutai, Biwott, Abshero and Feyisa Lilesa.
Biwott made the first move shortly after 30km, leaving Lilesa way behind. Biwott reached 35km in 1:42:47, slipping behind World record pace for the first time. With a 20m lead, the race appeared to be his for the taking, but Mutai was not beaten.
Less than 2km later he flew past Biwott and soon looked a certain winner himself. With Kipsang back in sixth, Makau 11th and Geoffrey Mutai already out of the race, he looked odds on to regain the crown he won in 2011.
But the hot early speed began to take its toll and Mutai visibly slowed, giving Kebede a glimpse of a chance. Emerging from fifth at 35km and second place 28 seconds back at 40km, the Ethiopian snatched it with both hands.
He overtook Mutai along Bird Cage Walk and never looked back, rounding the final corner and sprinting down The Mall to become only the seventh man to win more than one London Marathon title.
It was the slowest winning time since 2007, but Kebede didn’t care about that. After missing out on the Olympics, Kebede has surely made his point.
Mutai held on for second as Abshero raised his game over the final miles to claim third. Lilesa was fourth with Kipsang fifth, more than three minutes behind his winning time last year.
Biwott’s effort proved too much as he slipped back to eighth, two places behind Olympic champion Kiprotich who missed his goal of a PB, finishing in 2:08:05. Next page