The men’s race
Mutai record leads Kenyan sweep
Emmanuel Mutai smashed the course record to take the 2011 title as Kenya swept all three medals. In 2010 Mutai made a late surge to finish second, but this time he left little to chance, bursting clear after 20 miles to win in 2:04:40, half a minute quicker than Sammy Wanjiru’s 2009 record.
For Mutai this was a triumph to savour as his victory by a minute and five seconds was the biggest winning margin since Japan’s Toshihiko Seko beat Hugh Jones in 1986.
“Since I started running in London, I have twice finished fourth and last year I was second,” said the 26-year-old. “This year I have come back and my dreams have come true. I so much wanted to win a major marathon and this time I did it.”
Three-time London winner Martin Lel made a remarkable return to marathon running after nearly three years of injuries to finish second with a sprint finish ahead of Patrick Makau, the pair completing the first national medal sweep since Britain filled the top three spots in 1985.
Both recorded 2:05:45, a time only 30 seconds outside Lel’s personal best. It was an unexpected performance from the former champion as he was added to the entries just three weeks before the race and hadn’t run a marathon since the 2008 Olympics.
“I am a little bit surprised,” said Lel. “I thought I could run 2:10 and maybe finish in the top 10. I didn’t think about the top two, it is beyond what I expected.”
As for 2010 champion Tsegaye Kebede, he had to be satisfied with fifth in 2:07:48 after Mutai ground his dreams of a world record into the London dust.
The Ethiopian had looked confident early on, grinning and waving to the crowd at the start line. He tucked in behind the pacemakers as the runners set off in near perfect conditions - 10 degrees, light cloud and virtually no wind.
A 10-strong bunch soon opened a slight gap on the rest, among them five Kenyans – Mutai, Lel, Makau, James Kwambai, and world champion Abel Kirui. They passed 5k in 14:34, six seconds quicker than in 2010 but adrift of the world record schedule Kebede had predicted at the pre-race press conference.
The Ethiopian was keen to push on and the result was immediately apparent as they sped through the 10km point in 29:25 and 15km in 44:27. The leaders strode over the river at Tower Bridge and through half way in 62:45. Lel looked easy alongside Kirui and Mutai as nine men now gathered themselves for serious racing.
The last pacemaker fell back at 30km, and Kebede began to make a move as they twisted through the Docklands and passed Canary Wharf. But it wasn’t to be Kebede’s day. Mutai responded immediately, unleashing a 4:29 mile, the quickest of the race so far, which immediately opened a 100m lead on Makau and Lel and left the Ethiopian in their wake.
Now in bright sun, Mutai forged on alone, recording a 5k split from 30 to 35km of 14:16. He strode out along the Embankment without a single opponent in sight and by the time he rounded the final bend in front of Buckingham Palace he had time to enjoy the crowd.
Mutai sprinted for the line to become the ninth man to break 2:05, recording his fifth sub-2:07 time, the fifth quickest marathon ever run.
“I wasn’t thinking about the time, only about winning, but I improved my best from 2:06 to 2:04,” he said. “I really can’t ask for more than that. Now I can say I am a great marathon runner because I achieved two goals at once – I won London and I ran 2:04.”
Behind him Lel unleashed a furious sprint to beat Makau who had fallen just after half way and almost dropped out.
Marilson dos Santos smashed his PB by more than two minutes to finish fourth in 2:06:34 just 29 seconds outside Ronaldo da Costa’s Brazilian record, while the crest-fallen Kebede jogged home fifth.
Jaouad Gharib followed in sixth, a rare miss for the 38-year-old Moroccan, while Dmitriy Safronov of Russia was first European in 2:09:35. Lee Merrien was first Briton, finishing 14th in 2:14:27.
The women’s race
Incredible Keitany cracks 2:20
Mary Keitany produced a devastating performance to win the women’s race in a time only world record holder Paula Radcliffe has ever beaten on the London course.
The Kenyan made a dramatic burst after 15 miles to leave defending champion Liliya Shobukhova and a clutch of highly talented rivals in her shadow. The 29-year-old strode home alone in 2:19:19 to move alongside Irina Mikitenko as the equal fourth fastest woman in history.
After smashing the world half marathon record earlier in 2011, Keitany announced herself on the marathon stage in superb style, improving her lifetime best by nearly 10 minutes to become the 10th woman to break 2:20.
Shobukhova rallied in the final stages to take second in 2:20:15, slicing 10 seconds from her Russian record. Edna Kiplagat finished third in 2:20:46, nearly five minutes inside her PB, the best ever for third.
Keitany showed her intentions from the start as the leading pack opened a gap on a large second group 10 seconds back. At the front were Shobukhova, Kiplagat, Mariya Konovalova, and five Ethiopians – Askale Tafa, Atsede Baysa, Aselefech Mergia, Bezunesh Bekele and Aberu Kebede.
Shobukhova looked supremely comfortable as the leading nine crossed Tower Bridge together, clocking 67:00 at 20km before passing half way in 70:38. As the pace maker dropped away Shobukhova took the cue to push on. Immediately, Konovalova and Tafa slipped back but Keitany ran shoulder to shoulder with the reigning champion.
The brilliant Kenyan had been disappointed to finish third on her marathon debut in New York the previous November, and was clearly in no mood for a repeat here. With barely a glance at her opponents, she put her foot down between miles 15 and 16 and kicked away from the Russian like a middle distance runner coming off the final bend.
Within one blistering five-minute mile her opponents were beaten. It was a devastating burst, and she followed it by running the next three miles in under 5:10.
Keitany negotiated the twisting corners round the Isle of Dogs with ease and by mile 18 had stretched her lead to 27 seconds. Her 5km split between 25 and 30km was 16 minutes exactly. It was too much for last year’s bronze medallist, Aselefech Mergia, who soon dropped out as Shobukhova and Kiplagat became the leading chasers.
There was no catching the incredible Keitany, though. Despite letting her pace drop slightly through miles 20 and 21, she stretched her lead as the temperatures rose towards 14 degrees. She emerged from Blackfriars underpass into the sunshine on Victoria Embankment and pushed on for Westminster, passing 40km in 2:12:07.
Turning into The Mall in glorious isolation, she sprinted for the line to record the quickest time in the world since Radcliffe enjoyed her third victory here in 2005.
“I knew I could get my best time here,” said Keitany later, the first Kenyan winner since Margaret Okayo in 2004. “I trained very hard and it paid off. I was very confident because I knew I was in good shape, the course was flat and the weather was good.”
Behind her Shobukhova unleashed a finishing surge to shake off Kiplagat. She’d predicted sub-2:20 and expected to win, but the Russian had to be satisfied with second, her first marathon defeat in four races.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed to come second but I’m very happy I broke the Russian record,” she said.
Bekele was fourth for the second year in a row, while Baysa was fifth. Yukiko Akaba claimed a spot on Japan’s World Championships team as she matched her sixth place from 2010 clocking a personal best of 2:24:09.
Jo Pavey was first Briton home in 18th – a successful debut in 2:28:24, well inside UK Athletics’ World and Olympic qualifying standards. A record 22 women finished in 2 hours 30 or better, obliterating the previous record of 15.
The men’s wheelchair race
Weir wins record fifth
Briain’s David Weir celebrated a record fifth London Marathon victory exactly 500 days before the opening ceremony of the London Paralympic Games as he beat Swiss master Heinz Frei in a sprint finish.
“This was probably one of the toughest marathons I have ever done,” said Weir who won in 1:30:05, just two seconds ahead of the 53-year-old world record holder. “I kept surging but Heinz kept up with me, so I knew he was going to be with me all the way. It means a lot to beat such a legend.”
Following two years of illness and technical problems, Weir had been feeling in good shape since his New York victory the previous November. He changed his chair before that race and chose the same one for London’s perfect conditions.
Six leaders raced together with 2010 champion Josh Cassidy of Canada, Spain’s Roger Puigbo Verdaguer and Pole Tomasz Hamerlak alongside Weir and Frei. At 20 miles, Weir looked strongest and as the finish approached Frei offered his support to the Briton.
“Heinz turned to me and said, ‘I’m going to help you,’” said Weir. “That just shows how much respect we have for each other.”
The two broke clear as they came into the finishing straight and Weir edged ahead at the line. Frei, who crossed in 1:30:07, was gracious in defeat.
“It was a good race for an old man like me,” he said. “The first half is tough because it has slight inclines. In the second half I wanted to help David as much as I could. I knew he had more power towards the end, but I am happy with my overall performance.”
Weir dedicated his win to his long-time coach, Jenny Archer, whose mother had died shortly before the race. He also looked ahead to the Paralympics. “This is another stepping stone to 2012,” he said. “It is great to win with 500 days to go.”
The women’s wheelchair race
McGrory takes course record
Amanda McGrory broke the course record to take her second women’s title ahead of Shelly Woods. The American, who had won the Paris Marathon a week before, predicted that records could be broken if the weather was right, and the women enjoyed perfect conditions. The 24-year-old crossed the line in 1:46:31, nearly two minutes faster than Sandra Graf’s 2008 course record as the first four finished inside the old mark.
“To come here and win two marathons back to back is huge. It is a wonderful career highlight,” said McGrory, who also won in 2009. “With about a mile to go there were still four in with a chance, but I was confident of my finishing speed. I looked down at my clock and thought the record could be on.”
McGrory denied Britain a wheelchair one-two as she outsprinted Woods, who was given the same time. Since winning in 2007 Woods had suffered a series of punctures, but she felt in great shape following a recent change of coaches.
“I was chilled out in the race and was feeling my way round,” said Woods. “Everyone has a plan and you always know it could be a sprint, so I was saving some energy for the finish. There’s been a dark cloud over this marathon for the last few years for me, so it’s great to be among the world’s best women.”
Graf finished third in 1:46:33, with debutante Tatyana McFadden, McGrory’s team-mate, clocking 1:46:34 in fourth.
“This is an awesome marathon,” said the champion. “The record was broken today and 1:43 is possible here in the future.”