Third time lucky in London for Jeptoo
Gelana’s misfortune rather clouded the women’s race. She fell in the London Olympic Marathon too, but that time picked herself up to beat Jeptoo in the pouring rain.
Conditions couldn’t have been more different today as the women set off under cloudless skies in virtually still conditions.
Gelana was immediately apparent at the front of a group of 10, with her two closest rivals Kiplagat and Jeptoo running easy alongside her. Caution seemed to be the order of the day, however, as they passed through the first mile marker in 5:20 with the pacemakers already 50 metres ahead of the field.
By two miles the leading pack numbered seven, the leading three joined by Kenyans Florence Kiplagat and Joyce Chepkirui, plus Gelana’s compatriots Atsede Baysa and Meselech Melkamu. Japanese pair Akaba and Mai Ito joined them after they passed the first 5km in 16:36, 14 seconds behind the pacemakers but on course for a 2:21:30 finish.
Gelana claims to love the rain, but at this point she looked supremely relaxed under London’s morning sun, smiling and chatting to Baysa as the runners turned west and made their way through Woolwich towards Rotherhithe and Tower Bridge.
The drama came at 15km as Gelana cut sharply across the road to reach the feeding station, unaware that the men’s wheelchair field was moving up fast on her inside. She collided with Cassidy’s chair and landed hard on her hands and knees. Kiplagat also had to check her pace as another chair appeared to clip her left foot.
Gelana picked herself up immediately and sprinted back to the group, at first seemingly none the worse for wear, but having missed her drink. She tucked herself in to collect her thoughts and assess the damage as Akaba pushed on at the head of the pack.
They passed 20km in 68:11 and crossed Tower Bridge to reach half way in 1:11:33, some way down on schedule but with all to race for.
Edna Kiplagat now made the running, putting in a 5:08 mile to 14 miles. Baysa and Chepkirui began to lose touch while Gelana was gritting her teeth, bearing the pain as she clung to the back of the leading five.
It was a valiant effort but another fast mile of 5:04 was too much for the shattered Ethiopian. By the 25km mark she was 100m behind, her chances of victory vanishing by the step.
The leading group was now down to four but when the pacemakers dropped out the three Kenyans pushed away from Melkamu. Florence Kiplagat was next to lose touch as Edna Kiplagat and Jeptoo struck out on their own around Canary Wharf.
Kiplagat briefly opened a five-metre lead as the pair passed 30km in 1:40:18, but having finished third and second here in two races last year, Jeptoo was determined not to play the bridesmaid’s role again.
Her style is all elbows and knees compared to Kiplagat’s far smoother gait, but it was she who proved to be strongest as they turned west and ran hard towards Westminster. She opened a stride’s gap, which slowly grew to two, then five before the elastic snapped and Kiplagat settled in to secure second.
Jeptoo checked her watch but not her pace, passing 35km with a 17-second lead. The last stages would be hers alone and she never wavered, striding out along the Embankment. She skirted St James’s Park and turned past Buckingham Palace to take the tape before falling to her knees in prayer.
Baysa was fourth in 2:25:14, with Malkamu fifth and the tired Florence Kiplagat sixth.
Gelana struggled home nearly 17 minutes later in 2:36:55, such a sad figure compared to the woman who powered down the same street for Olympic glory last August.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF
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