Kirui and Chelimo become world champions on the streets of London
Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui and Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo struck gold on the streets of London as they won the IAAF World Championship marathons while a superb performance from Great Britain’s Callum Hawkins gave the home crowds plenty to cheer about.
Kirui showed great race craft in a fascinating battle with Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola, whose personal best (PB) of 2:04:11 made him the fastest man in the field.
The two broke away from the rest of the field on the third of four laps of the London 2017 marathon course.
Tola then powered clear of Kirui at the 19-mile mark with what looked to be a race-winning effort. But the 24-year-old Kenyan proved he had managed his resources better than his East African rival and within two miles had reeled Tola back in.
Tola tried gamely to hang on to Kirui but the elastic snapped as they raced down the Embankment on the final lap of the course.
Once in front, Kirui never looked like relinquishing the lead and broke the tape on Tower Bridge in a time of 2:08:27 to become Kenya’s fifth world marathon champion.
Behind him, there was a fascinating battle for the silver and bronze medals with Tola finding himself in a real fight to stay in the top three ahead of the fast-finishing Alphonce Simbu (Tanzania) and Britain’s Hawkins.
The British crowds got behind their man as Hawkins scythed through the field, picking off runners one-by-one to get himself into fourth place. Simbu was finishing just as strongly and both were becoming a real threat to Tola.
Ultimately Tola had just enough energy to hold on for the silver medal in 2:09:49 but had to receive medical treatment to recover from his efforts. Simbu finished just two seconds back in 2:09:51 to win the bronze with Hawkins crossing the line in a superb personal best (PB) of 2:10:17.
Hawkins said: "It is bittersweet. I could just see third place in the distance. The last five kilometres, I kept the same distance, which was quite frustrating. Maybe I left it a bit late.
"I wanted to get a medal but fourth is still pretty good I guess. I was just hanging on towards the end.”
Andrew Davies was the next British runner home in 31st place (2:17:59) and Josh Griffiths – the surprise package of this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon where he was the first British finisher – came home in 39th place in 2:20:06.
The women’s race was a cautious affair until the final of the four laps but Britain’s Alyson Dixon ensured the feel-good spirit created by Hawkins on the same roads just hours earlier continued as she ran off the front of the main field to the roars of the British fans.
Dixon spent about an hour at the front of the field and was visibly thrilled to be leading a race in front of home supporters.
But a strong lead pack eventually reeled the Sunderland Stroller in and, as the pace picked up, that pack was whittled down one-by-one with the USA’s Amy Cragg doing the damage at the front.
As the race splintered, Chelimo seized her chance to attack with only Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) able to respond.
These two had done battle in this year’s Boston Marathon with Kiplagat – who has won two World Championship gold medals in the marathon already – emerging victorious.
But this time Chelimo turned the tables as she forged ahead and just clung on for the biggest win of her career in 2:27:11.
There was a thrilling finish for the medals behind her with Kiplagat just holding off Cragg as the result came down to fractions of a second with both women finishing in 2:27:18. Cragg had already stormed past Flomena Daniel (Kenya) in the final 400m before coming agonisingly close to winning a silver medal.
Further back, Charlotte Purdue – making her World Championships debut – was timing her effort to perfection and had reeled in her British team-mate Dixon.
Purdue ended up as the first European finisher in 13th place in 2:29:48 with Dixon crossing the line in 18th place (2:31:36).
Tracy Barlow was the third British finisher in 43rd place (2:41:03).