Expected epic showdown in men’s race did not materialize.
Written by: Matt Fitzgerald
It was billed as the deepest Virgin London Marathon men’s race field ever–and that’s saying something. Defending champion and 2008 Olympic Marathon gold medalist Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya was there. Four-time half-marathon world champion and recent half-marathon world record breaker Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea was present and making his hugely anticipated marathon debut. 2008 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist and returning London Marathon runner-up Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia was not to be overlooked. Also in the mix was the second-fastest marathon runner of all time, Kenya’s Duncan Kibet.
Let’s see, gold medalist, bronze medalist… Ah, yes: The 2008 Olympic Marathon silver medalist (and two-time marathon world champion) Jaouad Gharib of Morocco was also in the field.
They said it would be a race for the ages. It wasn’t. It was merely a good race. Wanjiru blew up and dropped out, Tadese learned why they say a marathon is a lot more than twice a half marathon, running 2:12:03 for seventh place, and other big names fizzled as Kebede won easily, by 64 seconds, in 2:05:19. Emmanual Mutai of Kenya, the 2009 Marathon World Championship silver medalist, was second in 2:06:23. The ever-consistent Gharib took third in 2:06:55.
The women’s race, not as star-packed to begin with, was also marred by poor performances from big names. Defending champion Irina Mikitenko, a German by way of Russia, dropped out mid-race with an apparent foot injury. Marathon American record holder and 2006 London Marathon winner Deena Kastor was a non-factor. Last year’s runner-up, Mara Yamauchi of Great Britain, had a rough day, finishing 10th in 2:26:16.
Taking best advantage of the others’ weakness was Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova, whose winning time of 2:22:00 put her 19 seconds ahead of her compatriot Inga Abitova at the finish line. Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia captured the third spot, another 19 seconds back.
For an image gallery of last week’s Boston Marathon, click here.[sgi:MattFitzgerald]