Keitany cracks world record as Weir wins magnificent seventh
Mary Keitany produced one of the greatest ever women’s marathon performances to break the women-only world record at the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon this morning as David Weir became the most successful athlete in the event’s 37-year history and Manuela Schär broke the women’s wheelchair course record to clinch her first London title.
Daniel Wanjiru made it a Kenyan one-two in the elite events by winning the men’s race in 2:05:49, the unheralded 24-year-old Amsterdam champion holding off the great Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele in a race to remember.
A great Ethiopian finished second in the women’s race too, as Tirunesh Dibaba chased Keitany home to set a national record, despite suffering from stomach cramps, with her compatriot Aselefech Mergia third.
The whole field was left in the Kenyan’s wake from the start, as she broke clear after just two miles, and went on to run the quickest first half ever seen and smash the 30km world record before holding her head and body together in the final miles to cross the line in 2:17:01.
Only Britain’s Paula Radcliffe has ever run quicker when she set the ‘absolute’ world record in 2003. But the Briton was forced to watch from the commentary booth today as her women only mark of 2:17:42 was erased from the history books by the brave Keitany who claimed a third London Marathon title to go with her three New York crowns.
“We had planned to run 2:18 so it was a great day for me to run so fast,” said Keitany. “I thought I would run 2:17:59 or something, so to run 2:17:01 is amazing.
“My body felt fit enough and I have trained well and I tried to push all the time. I’m very happy with the finish time.”
Well she might be, for it is worth a cool quarter of a million dollars in prize money to the 35-year-old mother of two.
Wanjiru made his break rather later, the Kenyan going clear with five miles left to leave a string of world-class athletes behind him. But Bekele dragged himself back from outside the top 10 to come within a whisker of triumph, in the end finishing just eight seconds behind the winner with Bedan Karoki third on his debut.
Weir produced a devastating sprint to beat reigning champion Marcel Hug in the men’s wheelchair race after a 15-strong group entered The Mall together.
Hug has beaten all-comers over the last 12 months, but Weir was determined to hit the record books as he powered away from his Swiss rival to cross the line in 1:31:06.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Weir, who has now gone one better than Tanni Grey-Thompson who won six wheelchair titles in her long career.
“I’ve had a lot of background problems in my personal life. It’s been tough, especially after Rio. I needed to focus and sort out my head.
“But I knew I had it in the last corner. All I was thinking was ‘win, win, win’. You have to be mentally strong,” he said, echoing the theme of this year’s event which has been dubbed ‘the mental health marathon’.
Hug was just one second behind with Australia's Kurt Fearnley snatching third in 1:31:07.
While Hug had to settle for second, fellow Swiss racer Schär was simply too good for the rest in the women’s race as she broke clear at 30km and cruised home to take Tatyana McFadden’s course record in 1:39:57.
Schär finally won the London crown after being runner-up behind McFadden for the last three years.
After breaking the world best in Boston six days ago, Schär was again a class apart as she won by more than four minutes from Amanda McGrory with Susannah Scaroni third.
“I’ve had an incredible week and I’m so pleased to have smashed the course record,” she said.
There were British performances to celebrate in the elite races too as Alyson Dixon broke her personal best to finish 14th in the women’s event in 2:29:06 and clinch a place on Britain’s World Championship team.
Charlotte Purdue was second Briton home in 2:29:23, while an unknown mass starter, Josh Griffiths of Swansea Harriers, emerged from the championship field on his debut to win the contest to be first British man across the line in 2:14:49.