Debutants deliver dramatic victories at the 35th London Marathon
Two Virgin Money London Marathon debutants delivered dramatic victories in the 35th anniversary edition of the London Marathon this morning as Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge outsprinted defending champion Wilson Kipsang to win the closest men’s race for eight years, and Tigist Tufa fought off her more fancied rivals to hand Ethiopia its first women’s crown since 2001.
David Weir was denied a seventh men’s wheelchair title for the third year in a row, this time losing by one second to last year’s Chicago champion Joshua George, while Tatyana McFadden made it two from two for the USA as she took her third consecutive London win and extended her incredible winning streak by breaking her course record from 12 months ago by a massive four minutes.
There were no records in the elite races, but Kipchoge got close, finishing 13 seconds outside Kipsang’s time from 2014 in 2:04:42, the third fastest time on the famous course, while Tufa finished in 2:23:22, her time less significant than her landmark victory over a quartet of Kenyans who’d been billed as the ‘fantastic four’.
Kipsang had taken the New York title with a sprint finish six months ago, but this time it was the stockier, more punchy Kipchoge who had the edge, the former world 5000m champion clinching victory in the last half mile to deny the two-time winner his London hat-trick.
The pair had been locked together for nearly 26 miles, but there was to be no repeat of the inaugural winners’ hand-in-hand gesture from 35 years ago as Kipchoge finally broke the champion’s resolve to win by five seconds, handing Kipsang his first defeat in four races.
World record holder Dennis Kimetto was prominent throughout, but had to be satisfied with third in 2:05:50, nearly three minutes outside his barrier-breaking world record from Berlin last September, while last year’s runner-up Stanley Biwott was fourth.
As for Tufa, she tore up the prediction book to hand Ethiopia its first women’s win since the great Derartu Tulu took the victory 14 years ago.
Tufa grabbed the topsy-turvy race by the scruff of its neck with a devastating burst between 35 and 40K that ripped apart a nine-strong group containing two-times London winner Mary Keitany and world half marathon record holder Florence Kiplagat.
Tufa threw in a super-swift 24th mile to pull clear of the pack and strode home alone in 2:23:22.
Keitany won the battle for the runner-up spot with a sprint finish over Tirfi Tsegaye, the New York champion crossing the line one second ahead in 2:23:40, while Aselefech Mergia capped a great day for Ethiopia by finishing fourth ahead of Kiplagat, who couldn’t match her second place from 12 months ago.
As for her namesake, Edna, the defending champion and two-times world champion never featured at the head of the field and lost touch with the fluctuating lead group in the second half, eventually placing 11th in 2:27:16.
Having lost by a second to Marcel Hug last year, Weir suffered defeat by the same agonisingly small margin this time as George became the first US winner of the men’s wheelchair race in 1:31:31, while his compatriot McFadden completed her London hat-trick with a spectacular course record of 1:41:14, almost four minutes inside the time she set last year.
As for the elite women’s course record, that still stands to Paula Radcliffe who rolled home with the leading club runners to clock 2:36:55, 10 years and nine days after her last record-breaking appearance here.
Her final 200 metres was an emotional ride for the 41-year-old. As she strode down The Mall in familiar nodding style, the women’s medal presentations were halted and the grandstand crowds rose to their feet with their ‘Thank you Paula’ banners in hand to greet one of event’s all-time greats.
The leading Britons in this year’s elite races were Scott Overall who clocked 2:13:13 in 13th place, and Sonia Samuels who was 16th in the women’s race in 2:31:46.