Race report 2010
The men’s race
Kebede ends Kenya’s domination
Tsegaye Kebede turned silver to gold as the 2009 runner-up triumphed to take the men’s title in 2:05:19, just nine seconds outside the one-year-old course record. Kebede, an Olympic and world bronze medallist, took his victory in style, crossing the line with more than a minute to spare to become the first non-Kenyan winner since his fellow Ethiopian Gezahegne Abera in 2003.
“I was second last year, so it is good to win this time,” said Kebede. “I thought I could get the course record but the rain made it difficult.”
Kenya’s world silver medallist Emmanuel Mutai had to be satisfied with second again, in 2:06:23, while the evergreen Moroccan Jaouad Gharib was third for the second year in a row in 2:06:55.
After a storming victory in Fukuoka in December 2009, Kebede’s win was hardly a surprise. Indeed, defending champion Sammy Wanjiru had said just two days before the race that if he didn’t retain the title Kebede was the man to watch.
In the event, Wanjiru provided the day’s big shock when he dropped out at 27km. The Olympic champion had won four out of five marathons and never finished lower than second. But he was forced to pull out around mile 17 with a sore right knee.
Wanjiru was one of four talented Kenyans who set off in cool light rain, running the fast opening miles behind three pacemakers, John Kales, Moses Arusei and Titus Masai. They’d been asked to run to 20 miles at 2:04 pace and, at first, hit their stride perfectly, passing 5km in 14:39.
They soon slipped behind schedule, however, and passed half way in 63:06, more than a minute off the target. Mutai and Abel Kirui picked up the pace through miles 14 (4:39) and 15 (4:39) as Wanjiru began to falter and Zersenay Tadese, the world half marathon record holder, showed signs of strain.
By mile 16, the group was down to five with Kirui and Mutai leading Kebede and Gharib, followed by the surprising Moroccan Abderrahim Bouramdane.
Kebede and Kirui took the lead through 30km in 1:28:46 – a 10km split of 28:52. They were now on 2:05-pace and just inside course record schedule. These two opened a gap on Mutai as they wound through the Docklands and under the Canary Wharf tower.
After a swift 20th mile (4:28) Kebede made his move. Maintaining his punchy, compact style the 23-year-old kicked away from Kirui and by 35km (1:43:30) had a seven-second lead. He ran hard through miles 22 (4:55), 23 (4:51) and 24 (4:46) building an unassailable lead as he swept down to the Embankment. The victory secured, he allowed himself to slow and enjoy the moment.
As he turned into the The Mall Kebede made a last sprint for Wanjiru’s record. It wasn’t to be, those slow early miles too much to overcome. He crossed the line as the third quickest ever over the London course, missing his PB by just one second. “I had to make the pace on my own at the end,” he said. “The pacemakers were not good today, so I am happy to run 2:05 on a day like today.”
Behind him, Kirui blew up in the last mile and a half and was passed by Mutai, who improved from fourth in 2008 and 2009. “When Kebede pushed I was left behind,” said Mutai. “I couldn’t go with him, so I focused on getting on the podium. I have finished fourth twice, so I am pleased to be second at last.”
As for Gharib, he had overcome mid-race stomach problems. “I was aiming to do better,” he said. “But after the problems I had I’m happy with the result.”
Bouramdane smashed his PB to take fourth in 2:07:33, 47 seconds inside his previous best while Kirui limped home in fifth in 2:08:04. The sad Tadese jogged home for his first marathon finish – seventh place in 2:12:03 just ahead of the first Briton, Andrew Lemoncello, who clocked 2:13:40 on his debut.
Kebede earned $130,000 for his efforts. Just four years earlier he was helping his father sell firewood in Addis Ababa to feed his 12 siblings. “It was a good day for him,” as the unfortunate Wanjiru put it. “Kebede did a good job today.” Indeed, he did.
The women’s race
Mergia rises to first
The disqualification of Liliya Shobukhova and her Russian compatriot Inga Abitova for doping violations means the revised results list records world bronze medallist Aselefech Mergia as the first Ethiopian winner of the women’s race since Derartu Tulu in 2001, with Bezunesh Bekele and Askale Tafa completing an Ethiopian sweep of the medals some two years before the Kenyans’ domination in 2012.
In fact, Mergia was initially third across the line in 2:22:38, running nearly two and a half minutes inside her previous best but 38 seconds behind Shobukhova who was lauded as the first Russian women’s champion. She had dominated a race packed with talent, including the reigning champion Irina Mikitenko, who dropped out with a shin injury after 11 miles, and Britain’s Mara Yamauchi, second in 2009, who finished 10th (later promoted to eighth), the trials of a six-day journey to London taking its toll.
By contrast, Shobukhova never looked troubled and Mergia was one of those left in her wake over the final miles. Mergia chased Abitova home followed by Bekele, 39 seconds later, and the distant Tafa, both now promoted to podium places.
For the record, Shobukhova’s winning time was 2:22:00, and Abitova clocked 2:22:19.
The men’s wheelchair race
Canada’s Cassidy gets first win
Canadian newcomer Josh Cassidy celebrated his first marathon title on a drizzly morning, handling the conditions well to beat the reigning champion Kurt Fearnley of Australia and Britain’s David Weir who was denied a fifth title by two punctures.
Cassidy chose slower tyres than Weir, who used a new racing chair built for endurance, and his tactical, come-from-behind performance was enough to secure the $15,000 prize.
“The weather played a part today,” said the 25-year-old. “I haven’t trained in rain for three months so I didn’t expect the result today. It means so much.”
Cassidy, a graphic designer, had been training with Weir in London, and the Briton had rated him as one to watch. By 5km, however, it was the British racer who led a pack of seven while Fearnley was already 22 seconds behind. At 10km, he was three minutes back as Weir and Japan’s Kota Hokinoue moved ahead.
At Tower Bridge Cassidy trailed Weir by a minute but it all changed as they reached the Embankment. Weir’s front tyre had punctured at 15 miles, so when he got another on his back wheel at 20 miles, he knew the game was up. Cassidy soon passed the ailing Briton and went on to claim victory in 1:35:21.
Switzerland’s Marcel Hug came through for second on his first London Marathon while Weir battled on for a respectable third in 1:37:01.
He said: “I tried my hardest but it was like doing another 20 miles on top when I got two punctures. As soon as your back tyres go, it’s a struggle to go very far. I was in great shape this year, so it’s obviously disappointing.”
Cassidy was elated with his biggest win. He said: “I knew it was going to be a tough race as I’ve been with some of these guys before but I was really excited about competing in London for the first time. There are lots of great races in this country and London is definitely one of them.”
Hokinoue was fourth in 1:40:59 and Fearnley fifth in 1:41:37, nearly 13 minutes outside his course record.
The women’s wheelchair race
Tsuchida wins second in a week
London debutante Wakako Tsuchida took her second major marathon title in the space of a week as she became the first Japanese winner of the women’s wheelchair race, beating course record holder Sandra Graf and reigning champion Amanda McGrory in a close finish.
Shelly Woods suffered the same fate as her compatriot David Weir when she punctured late in the race and could only finish sixth.
Woods was part of the leading pack from the start but there was little action until 25km when Canada’s Diane Roy, third in 2009, had to pull out with a puncture. That left four in the hunt, but disaster struck the Blackpool-based Briton when she blew two tyres in the last few miles, ending her hopes for victory.
As the three leaders entered The Mall it was McGrory who looked likely to retain her title, but Tsuchida’s class finish was simply too good. She crossed the line in 1:52:33, one second ahead of Graf and three in front of McGrory.
Tsuchida had won her fourth Boston title in a row just six days before, but was thought to be too inexperienced for the tactical London course.
“I had images about this race before I started and knew experience mattered,” said the surprised Japanese racer. “It was always going to be tactical so I was expecting a sprint finish. The weather was bad at the beginning but even though I’ve just won Boston, I really wanted to win.”
Graf, another to suffer puncture problems, said: “I got a slight puncture in my front tyre at about 30km. I’m not one to make excuses but it may have been a little different if we had dry conditions.”
McGrory was sad not to retain her title, but pleased to make the podium again. “It was great to be involved in such a tight race,” she said. “I was fine all the way but in the last 300 yards my arms just seemed to give way.”
The disappointed Woods came in sixth in 2:45:40. “There’s nothing like racing at home,” she said. “It’s just a shame I couldn’t show my sprint finish, but I will be back.”