The men’s race
El Mouaziz motors home
Abdelkader El Mouaziz took advantage of the pacemakers to open up an early gap on a large pack that included Britain’s Jon Brown, world record holder Ronaldo da Costa, Olympic silver medallist Lee Bong-ju, 1997 winner Antonio Pinto and reigning champion Abel Anton. At 6 miles Olympic champion Josiah Thugwane bridged the 100m gap, bringing the pack up to eight.
While the other pacemakers ended their efforts at halfway, Luis Jesus surged on through 25km before finally baling out at 27km, earning a bonus for going the extra distance and a grateful handshake from El Mouaziz. By that time 1998’s 2nd placer had shaken off all the other contenders and was ploughing a lonely furrow, more than 2 minutes up on the pack.
By 19 miles, the survivors of the breakaway group had either been swallowed up or had dropped out, leaving 2.5 minutes of empty road between the Moroccan and the main pack. This cushion was eaten into as each successive mile was covered but not until they reached 24 miles did any of the chasers make a positive move.
Pinto attacked, leaving the others floundering, but his fierce pace was not enough and El Mouaziz came home with over a minute to spare in a personal best time of 2:07:57. With shades of Anton in 1998, the Moroccan let a course record bonus slip by 2 seconds when he indulged in some extravagant waving in The Mall.
The women’s race
Chepchumba surges to record
There was a bonus for Joyce Chepchumba. The Kenyan put on a display of aggressive running and was rewarded with a women-only course record and a bonus for beating the world best recognised by the London Marathon organisers.
The British papers had made much of the organisers’ decision to ignore times set in mixed races but the stance taken was straightforward. Women’s track records are set in women-only races so why should road races not conform.
The designated pacemaker, Svetlana Zakharova of Russia, ushered a group of ten through 10km with two Australians, Nicole Carroll and Kerryn McCann, prominent. The forceful running of the tall Carroll would eventually remove exactly a minute from her best time while the diminutive McCann sliced almost 5 minutes from her previous best.
They were accompanied by Elana Meyer, Manuela Machado, Adriana Fernandez and Chepchumba. Keeping the bookies’ favourites company were Kenyans Esther Kiplagat and Angelina Kanana, and Romania’s Constantina Tomescu-Dita. Kiplagat was to drop out complaining of the cold while Tomescu-Dita suffered for her ambitious pace and came to grief around 21km.
At Tower Bridge, the lead group was down to McCann, Fernandez and the big three. When Zakharova dropped out, Carroll pushed on, shedding compatriot McCann who was later passed by the more cautious Taeko Terauchi but hung on for 7th place.
Fernandez took off at 17 miles and opened a 50 metre lead on Chepchumba that also ended Machado and Meyer’s interest in 1st place. In mile 21, however, Chepchumba began to glide away from the Mexican and surged off in search of records. Her final effort took her 2 seconds under Lidia Simon’s time in 2:23:22. Machado, at the age of 35, set a short-lived world veteran best of 2:25:09 for 3rd, 63 seconds behind Fernandez.
The men’s wheelchair race
Heinz Frei drei
Heinz Frei successfully defended his London Marathon title in 1:35:27 and notched up his 3rd victory. After winning by 8 minutes in 1998, Frei demonstrated his versatility with a sprint finish that left London first-timer Joel Jeannot of France in 2nd.
These two pulled away from the pack at the start, leaving Britons David Holding, Kevin Papworth, Tushar Patel, and Chris Madden, plus Frenchman Denis Lemeunier, in their wake. They entered The Mall together and at the line Frei triumphed by just 1 second from Jeannot, crossing the line only 9 seconds outside his own course record.
10 minutes later the battle of the Brits was won by Holding in 1:45:28, 4 seconds ahead of Lemeunier.
The women’s wheelchair race
Return of the speedy Swede
Monica Wetterstrom regained the London title in 1:57:37, again beating Tanni Grey over 26.2 miles. Wetterstrom had been forced to train on rollers because snow on the roads around Stockholm restricted her outdoor preparation. Not that it seemed to hamper her stamina as she was a comfortable winner.