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Kenyans Dominate London Marathon

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Apr. 17, 2011
Kenyan Mary Keitany won the London Marathon on Sunday in 2:19:18, the fourth fastest women's time in history. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Kenyan Mary Keitany won the London Marathon on Sunday in 2:19:19, the fourth fastest women's time in history. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Mutai breaks men’s course record as Keitany runs away with women’s race.

Written by: David Powell
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

LONDON – Runaway victories over deep and high-class fields by Kenyans Emmanuel Mutai and Mary Keitany, rewrote the record books in the Virgin London Marathon today.

In the 31st running of the race, Mutai broke the course record by 30 seconds. Improving his PR from 2:06:15 to 2:04.40, he moved up from equal 28th on the men’s all-time list to fourth. Only Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie (2:03:59) and Mutai’s fellow Kenyans, Duncan Kibet and James Kwambai (both 2:04:27), have run faster.

Two months after setting a women’s world record 1:05:50 for the half marathon, Keitany made a 10-minute improvement on her marathon debut in the ING New York City race in November. There she was third in 2:29:01, here she clocked 2:19:19 to join Germany’s Irina Mikitenko as the joint fourth quickest woman in history. Britain’s Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25), Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba (2:18:47) and Japan’s Mizuki Noguchi (2:19:12) stand ahead. Only Radcliffe has run faster than Keitany, albeit it three times, on the London course.

On a warm and almost windless morning (15C rising to 18C), a men’s lead group of 12, including two pacemakers, went through 10K in 29:24, on even 2:04 pace. It included the eventual top seven, Martin Lel (2nd) and Patrick Makau (3rd), completing a Kenyan sweep of the podium, Brazil’s Marilson Gomes dos Santos (4th), Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede (5th) and two Moroccans, Jaouad Gharib (6th) and Abderrahime Bouramdane (7th).

Reaching halfway in 1:02.44, nine men remained in contention behind the two pacemakers, Qatar’s Ahmad Hassan Abdullah and Kenya’s Shadrack Kosgei. However, by now they were outside schedule to beat the course record 2:05:10 set by Kenya’s Sammy Wanjiru in 2009.

After 25K, reached in 1:14:16, it was left to the racers with the pacemakers gone. Defending champion Kebede seemed the most eager and was the first of the nine-man lead group through 30K (1:29:20). Flanked by Mutai and Lel, the pace picked up, Kwambai, Bouramdane and Gharib dropped back, and now there were six.

Mutai could wait no longer. In the 33rd kilometer he took control and, although Lel kept with him briefly, the eventual champion reached 35K (1:43.36) with a 20-seconds lead. He had run the 30 to 35K split in 14:16 which, taken on its own, is sub 2:00:30 speed. Covering his next 5K in 14:29, passing 40K in 1:58.05, Mutai now had a big lead over Lel and Makau who were in a tight battle for second place.

Running strong to the finish, Mutai won by 1:05, the biggest winning men’s race margin for 25 years. He ran a negative split second half (61:56). Lel sprinted past Makau in the closing strides to take 2nd place, both recording 2:05:45. Lel may have missed out on becoming the first man to win London four times but the consolation was his first marathon finish since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Makau got on the podium after falling at 22 kilometers.

Dos Santos followed in a PR 2:06:34, Kebede in 2:07:48, Gharib in 2:08:26 and Bouramdane 2:08:42. Russia’s Dmitry Safronov was the biggest beneficiary from a cautious start, taking 8th (2:09:35).

For the consistent Mutai, 26, it was a triumph for perseverance. He had finished in the top five of his previous seven marathons and runner-up in his last three (2009 World Championships, 2010 London and New York City). It was his first London win in four attempts.

“My aim was just to win,” he said. “But when I passed 30K I saw we were on 2:05 pace and I tried to push it because my best was 2:06:15.”

Keitany Breaks Away Early – Women’s Race

Keitany made her move even earlier than Mutai. She had spent the first half of the race allowing compatriot and pacemaker Iness Chenonge to do the work while defending champion Liliya Shobukhova, from Russia, slotted in behind her, seemingly the most eager of those seeking to finish.

By 10K, reached in 32:54, the lead group of 10, comprising eight Africans and two Russians, were already half a minute up on the chasers. At halfway (1:10:37), with Chenonge having just stepped out, nine remained but, in the 15th mile, Keitany made her break.

Through 25K (1:23:10), Keitany led by six seconds over a group now down to four, comprising Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat, Shobukhova and two Ethiopians, Aberu Kebede and Bezunesh Bekele. Extending her lead to 33 seconds at 30K (1:39:11), with 16:01 5K split, and to 1:09 at 35K (1:55:25), Keitany ran strongly all the way to the finish. Shobukhova gained a little towards the end to take second place in a Russian record 2:20:15, beating her own 2:20:25 from Chicago 2010.

Keitany and Kiplagat switched places from their first and third place finishes in New York in November, the latter following Shobukhova in 2:20:46, a PR by almost five minutes. Bekele was fourth (2:23:42), her fellow Ethiopian, Atsede Baysa fifth (2:23:50), Japan’s Yukiko Akaba sixth (2:24:09). Mikitenko, winner of London in 2008 and 2009, was seventh (2:24:24) and Portugal’s Jessica Augusto eighth (2:24:33).

Keitany, 29, is the tenth woman to break 2:20. In New York, she had lost out in a finishing duel with Kiplagat and US runner Shalane Flanagan but there was no such drama here. Like men’s winner Mutai, she ran a negative split, covering the second half in 1:08:42.

“I surprised myself,” she said. “I was with the winner of London last year (Shobukhova) and also New York (Kiplagat) so I was a bit scared at first.”

The mass field drew 35,303 starters, below the record 36,956. The finishing number was not yet available. It was a poor day for the home country, with no top-10 finisher in either elite race. The same applied to the US whose two main men’s hopes, Mo Trafeh and Patrick Smyth, failed to finish after starting too fast.

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Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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