LONDON, ENGLAND, October 02 — Kenya’s Amos Kipruto burst away from a quartet of Ethiopian rivals in the 38th kilometer to claim a runaway 2:04:39 victory in the final fall edition of the TCS London Marathon.
“This is the biggest moment in my career,” said the 30-year-old winner, who in ’19 achieved bronze in the WC 26-miler. “I’m really happy to do my best and be in a good position as the winner of the London Marathon.”
It proved to be quite a day for veterans as 30-year-old Ethiopian Leul Gebrselassie (2:05:12) and 33-year-old Belgian Bashir Abdi (2:05:19) waged a spirited battle for the final podium positions.
Despite a lead pack chock full of sub 2:04 performers, the first half of the race played out with little drama. Heading up the group was the formidable presence of 40-year-old Kenenisa Bekele and a strong Ethiopian contingent that included defending champ Sisay Lemma, 2:02:48 performer Birhanu Legese, Kinde Atanaw and Gebrselassie who has 5 sub-2:05 clockings.
Abdi, the Somali-born Belgian who garnered bronzes in both the ’21 Olympics and ’22 World Championships, ran amidst the Ethiopian quintet as did Kipruto who twice finished 2nd to Eliud Kipchoge, first in the Berlin ’18 WR race, then again, this past March when he ran a 2:03:13 PR in Tokyo.
Kipruto admitted that this rendition of the East African rivalry was a bit one-sided. “I was feeling a lot of pressure being the only Kenyan and they were speaking their own language,” he said, “but I believed what I had done in training and knew that I was capable.”
Crossing over the Tower Bridge and the halfway mat in 62:14, the pacers seized upon the excitement of the crowd and pushed the pace under a 2:55/kilo clip. This shift in tempo strung out the lead pack for the first time.
Bekele was quick to join Gebrselassie and Kipruto at the front, but as the pace stayed hot through a 14:29 segment, he drifted to the back as 25K was passed in 1:13:41. However, the push ended with the tempo languishing to pass 30K in 1:28:49 (2:04:55 pace).
As the pacemakers stepped aside, Legese hit the front with a short-lived move that Gebrselassie and Kipruto were so quick to respond to that the pace again slowed through a 15:05 reaching 35K in 1:43:54 (2:05:16 pace).
Bekele slowed even more, slipping out of contention 9 seconds back, eventually finishing 5th in 2:05:53. That’s the fastest ever by someone 40 or older.
After a 3:09 for kilo 36 Kipruto spent some time taking stock of his competitors and was more than content to stay put as the pack approached the Tower Of London.
“It was well-planned tactics,” Kipruto revealed. “I talked with my coach and I told him that I will be patient to 35 or 36, and then I will see how much energy that I have for the final 6 or 7 kilometers remaining.”
Legese went to the front through a 2:59 37th K that dropped Lemma, but the 5-man pack regrouped through a downhill 3:01 Then, passing the 38K post in 1:53:03 (2:05:32 pace) Kipruto shook loose his arms and took off.
“It was in my mind to fight for the podium,” he said, “but when I saw that the guys were struggling a bit, I said, ‘I think that this is the right time now to move.’”
Kipruto’s move proved to be one of the most remarkable turns of speed seen on a marathon course as ramping up the rhythm of his arm swing amidst a blur of legs he sped past the 39K post in 1:55:41, a race-breaking 2:38 segment. Gebrselassie and Abdi did well to muster a 2:44 counter, but the leader sped on with a 2:48 to put the race away, noting, “I think that the tactics worked well, and I secured the position.”
Kipruto never slowed down, closing out the final 2195m in 6:12. In total, his break from 38K to the finish was a show-stopping 2:45.9 per kilo as Kipruto arrived with a bullet.
“I believe in teamwork with my coach and teammates,” Kipruto said of the guidance from coach Claudio Berardelli who heads up manager Gianni Demadonna’s Kenya training camp and also draws upon his experience of having worked with Sammy Wanjiru.
“It was a tactical race,’ Kipruto concluded. “I knew that I would do my best because I trusted what I had done in training. I have run quite a few races and I learned a lot. This career is a learning process and today I can use the tactics that I learned from Eliud in Tokyo.”
Runner-up Gebrselassie also made a name for himself. “I had some hamstring problems but I surprised myself by coming 2nd,” he said.
Bashir added another quality 3rd to his résumé, admitting, “They call me Mr. Bronze, but the steady pace gave me more of a chance and I’m really happy with today’s race.”
LONDON MEN’S RESULTS
1. Amos Kipruto (Ken) 2:04:39 (14:45, 14:41 [29:26], 14:55 [44:21], 14:51 [59:12], 62:14, 14:29 [1:13:41], 15:08 [1:28:49], 15:06 [1:43:55], 14:32 [1:58:27], 6:12) (62:14/62:25);
2. Leul Gebrselassie (Eth) 2:05:12 (62:14/62:58); 3. Bashir Abdi (Bel) 2:05:19 (62:14/63:05); 4. Kinde Atanaw (Eth) 2:05:27 (62:14/63:13); 5. Kenenisa Bekele (Eth) 2:05:53 (age-40 record) (62:14/63:39); 6. Birhanu Legese (Eth) 2:06:11; 7. Sisay Lemma (Eth) 2:07:26; 8. Brett Robinson (Aus) 2:09:52; 9. Weynay Ghebresilasie (GB) 2:11:57; 10. Philip Sesemann (GB) 2:12:10;… 17. Andrew McCann (US) 2:21:39.