1997 race report
The men’s race
Pinto snatches victory and record
Steve Jones’ 12 year old course record was finally eclipsed but it took a race of the highest quality in which the winner was in doubt until the final strides. Antonio Pinto, one of the world’s most consistent marathoners, came from way back over the final miles to snatch victory from the 1996 world half marathon champion, Stefano Baldini, winning in 2:07:55 to the Italian’s 2:07:57. The 1996 Olympic champion, Josiah Thugwane of South Africa, was 3rd in 2:08:06, 2 seconds in front of Kenyan Erick Kimaiyo. Both Africans also beat Jones’ former course record.
At 18 miles, when Baldini – after steadily working his way to the front – slipped into the driving seat, the main pack started to fragment and Pinto drifted out of the first five places. From then on all three leaders, Baldini, Thugwane and Kimaiyo, were pushing into uncharted territory. The Italian was on course to set a national record, the South African to miss his country’s mark by just 2 seconds, and the Kenyan to remove 1:39 from his best.
At 23 miles Britain’s Richard Nerurkar rejoined the leading trio and then fell off the pace again. He was re-caught by a resurgent Pinto who then gathered in Kimaiyo and chased after the pair in front. Thugwane was eventually prised loose by Baldini between 25 and 26 miles but the Italian then had to contend with Pinto. After 26 miles both runners displayed incredible reserves of strength as they sprinted for the line with 1992 champion Pinto proving both faster and stronger. 8 of the first 10 set personal bests.
The women’s race
Chepchumba gets her revenge
There was another glorious scrap in The Mall at the end of the women’s race between Kenya’s Joyce Chepchumba and Britain’s Liz McColgan.
After Kenyan pacemaker Lornah Kiplagat led the field to halfway in 1:13:30, the 11-strong lead pack was tested by Sonja Krolik, a convert from triathlon. The 24 year old German slowly opened a gap that extended to 52 seconds by 20 miles. However, by 21 miles the gap was down to 28 seconds and with about 3 miles to go, Chepchumba and Lidia Simon of Romania passed Krolik.
At this point McColgan looked laboured and destined for 3rd place at best. But the Scot’s supporters began to get excited as she fought her way up to Chepchumba and started a long drive for home as they turned off the Embankment. Crowd hysteria reached fever pitch as she entered The Mall with a slight lead but Chepchumba, a distant 2nd the previous year, managed to reach the line 1 second in front of McColgan in 2:26:51. 6 of the top 10 women ran faster than ever before.
The men’s wheelchair race
Holding holds on for fourth
David Holding notched up his fourth London victory in 1:42:15, the second quickest ever on the course, beating the 1990 winner Hakan Ericsson of Sweden by just 1 second with Ivan Newman only 2 seconds further adrift.
It was a tough race with ten still in contention at half way when a few testing surges from Holding reduced the leading group to five. With 300 metres to go there were still four in the hunt, but as they entered The Mall Holding gradually opened a gap on Ericsson which he maintained to the line.
The women’s wheelchair race
Wetterstrom wheels away
Swede Monica Wetterstrom was a late entry for the women’s race, but she was far from a late finisher as she obliterated the field to win in 1:49:09, a course record by a massive 11 minutes. She took the lead early and even clung on to the leading men until half way. She eventually finished 9th overall.
Defending champion Tanni Grey was left some 11 minutes adrift and had to be satisfied with second place and her own London best of 2:00:06. Rose Hill was 3rd. This was the first year the race was organised by Disability Sport England, the new name for the BSAD.