2006 race report
The men’s race
Classic thrills to the last stride
Probably the most talented field yet set off on the road to Westminster, and by 5km (14:52) the race was already on schedule for a 2:05 finish despite the wind and rain driving into the runners’ faces.
At 10km, reached in 29:39, Ethiopia’s smiling Haile Gebrselassie was prominent at the front with a trio of Kenyans – Felix Limo, Evans Rutto, and reigning champion Martin Lel – as well as USA’s former world record holder Khalid Khannouchi, taking shelter behind the pacemakers.
The fast pace continued through 15km, 10 miles (47:45), and on to half way, which they passed in 1:03:33. At this stage the leading group numbered 10, including four pacemakers, although unknown to the others Gebrselassie was already having problems with tight hamstrings and calves.
As the pacemakers disappeared, seven were left to battle out the last 7km – Lel, Gebrselassie, Khannouchi, Rutto, Limo, Rodgers Rop, and South Africa’s Hendrick Ramaala, sporting a colourful headcloth. The decisive move came at 24 miles when Lel made a surge, followed by Rop, Ramaala and Limo. Khannouchi struggled to stay in contact and Gebrselassie, no longer smiling, dropped out of contention.
Lel led the leaders from the Blackfriars underpass, but he kept glancing over his shoulder for his friend, Limo, knowing that together they could get away. And so it proved. Shoulder-to-shoulder the pair headed towards Big Ben while behind them Ramaala and Rop were dueling for the remaining medal.
Lel inched in front as Buckingham Palace came into view but, as the pair turned the final bend, it was Limo who jumped to the front and he crossed the line first in 2:06:39, two seconds ahead of the 2005 champion who cut 45 seconds from his best.
Ramaala, in third, also ran faster than ever to clock 2:06:55, while Khannouchi finished fourth, Baldini fifth, in a lifetime best of 2:07:22, Rop sixth and Chatt seventh, all under 2:08. Gebrselassie finished a sad ninth in 2:09:05, describing it as his worst performance since 1991. “But if I can’t accept this then I shouldn’t accept my good performances,” he said.
The women’s race
Kastor dominates for US record
The women’s race often provides action from the gun and this was no exception. Three minutes after Lord Coe had sent the runners on their way a group of eight slotted in behind the male pacemakers, USA’s Mike McKeeman and Kenya’s Henry Tarus.
Deena Kastor’s race plan was to pass half way in 70 minutes and then push for her first sub-2:20 clocking. By the second mile the American, together with the Kenyan pair of Susan Chepkemei and Salina Kosgei, had opened a 14-second gap on the rest.
An eighth mile in 5:12 increased the front group’s advantage to 50 seconds, and another 5:12 for the 12th mile left Kosgei out of contention.
The leading pair passed half way in 1:09:48, exactly on Kastor’s schedule, and at the next drinks station the American began to ease away from Chepkemei. Kastor’s relentless pace saw her pass 30km in 1:39:08, representing 5km splits of 16:32, 16:37, 16:32, 16:31, 16:24 and 16:32. The next 5km stretch took Kastor 16:35, despite her suffering a tumble at a drinks station, and she drove on hard through the rain towards The Mall.
She crossed the line in 2:19:36 for her second big city win, breaking her own US record. She had run the second half in 69:48 – identical to the first. “I had the fear of Chicago creeping back as the miles went by,” said Kastor, referring to the 2005 race when she slowed in the final stages and missed the record. “I felt very good at 20 miles but that monkey can still jump on your back regardless,” she added.
The next five all set personal bests, although the closest was nearly two minutes adrift of the American. That was Lyudmila Petrova, who broke the Russian record to finish second in 2:21:29, saying afterwards: “I didn’t want to go out faster than 1:12 [for half way], although the goal was to break 2:20. It feels like home here, this is my fifth time in London and finally I have improved the Russian record.”
Chepkemei was rewarded for her front running as she hung on for third in 2:21:46. “I’m pleased to break my personal best, my time will come,” she said. In sixth place Mara Yamauchi ran 2:25:13 to move to second on the British all-time list ahead of Veronique Marot and Liz McColgan.
The men’s wheelchair race
Weir wins again
David Weir won the London Wheelchair marathon for a second time, defying the wet conditions and a stinking cold to break the course record in 1:29:48 so becoming the first racer to dip under one hour 30 on the difficult London course.
Weir, a world 100m record holder, took the lead early on, pulling double champion Saul Mendoza clear of the bunch as former winners Ernst Van Dyk and Denis Lemeunier crashed at a roundabout after three miles.
Weir tested Mendoza at seven miles, and by the 15-mile mark was some five minutes clear. He crossed the line two minutes 14 inside the old course record and eight minutes ahead of Mendoza.
“I knew my training was going well,” said Weir. “I’ve done more mileage than in previous years and in my new high-tech chair I hoped for a personal best. But to get the course record was beyond my expectations.”
“Today, David was in awesome form,” said Mendoza who had arrived in London only nine hours before the start time.
The women’s wheelchair race
Four from four for Porcellato
Italian Francesca Porcellato won the women’s race for the fourth year in a row despite suffering a puncture five miles from the finish. The expected battle with Shelly Woods didn’t materialise, however, as the young Briton was suffering from a cold and not at her best.
“The weather was not good today but I just love the London course,” said Porcellato. “I am really chuffed to win again, especially as I raced on a flat tyre for the last seven kilometres.”