LONDON, ENGLAND, April 23 — Kelvin Kiptum found a way to better his marathon debut world record as he dashed away from a quality field, blitzing a stupefying 59:45 second half to win the London Marathon with a 2:01:25 clocking.
“I am so happy with my performance in my first World Marathon Majors, and to run the second-fastest time in history,” Kiptum beamed. “The secret is hard training, and my preparation was very good. Everything was going one way, and I was expecting good results.”
Race day certainly went Kiptum’s way as the 23-year-old not only pared 72 seconds off Eliud Kipchoge’s London course record, he also scared Kipchoge’s 2:01:09 global standard, and moved past Kenenisa Bekele to No. 2 on the all-time list.
Left far behind was the competition as Geoffrey Kamworor ran a PR 2:04:23 to finish 2nd as Tamirat Tola filled out the podium with a 2:04:59 effort.
Kiptum picked up right where he left off last December in Valencia when he ran a stunning 2:01:53 marathon debut, closing the second half in 60:20. Having logged that impressive sub-2:02 debut, this run was less stunning than it was spectacular as Kiptum hit speeds seldom seen on a marathon course.
While the runners set off on wet pavement, the expected steady rain did not materialize and the light wind, 50-degree (10C) temperatures and a crisp 38-degree dewpoint combined for some fast running. Well at least for Kiptum.
Defending champ Vincent Kipruto and Kiptum were ready for a fast getaway, clipping at the pacers’ heels through the downhill opening 5K (14:30) before settling into a steady 2:56K pace.
Crossing 20K on the Tower Bridge in 58:31 (2:03:27 pace), Kiptum seemed to egg on the trio of pacers as they upped the tempo to pass halfway in 61:40. The move also yielded a generational change of sorts as the 40-year-old Bekele slipped out of contention while Kiptum sped on in an effort that would supplant the Ethiopian’s 2:01:41 Berlin ’19 win.
The ensuing 5K segment in 14:22 between 20 and 25K pared the pace down to a 2:03:01 clip, and the lead group to 6 contenders. Kenyans Kiptum, Kamworor and Kipruto led the charge, a stride ahead of the Ethiopian trio of Tola, Seifu Tura and Leul Gebrselassie.
Covering the subsequent 5K in 14:30 pushed the tempo down to 2:02:57 at 30K (1:27:23) when Kiptum’s obvious exuberance could no longer be restrained.
Kiptum’s break came after he missed his 30K fluid grab. “My plan was to catch a water,” he said. “But unfortunately, I missed and I said, ‘Let me make a move,’ so I try.”
Kiptum’s try was a sharp acceleration covered at first by Kamworor and Tola, but soon they were left behind.
After facing Kiptum in Valencia, Tola was ready for the move but discovered one of his legs wasn’t: “When he was moving, I start with him but my leg was not OK, so I kept on my pace to finish.”
Kamworor clung to the radical speed a bit longer before coming to his senses: “When Kelvin made a move, that was a crazy pace and I couldn’t go with it because that was insane, so I said, let me go with my pace.” Note that this perspective comes from an athlete who knows something about insane pace as he closed out his 2018 World Half-Marathon Championship in Valencia with a blistering 13:01.
Once cut loose, Kiptum covered ground effortlessly, with a little side-to-side shoulder movement in his arm swing, but from his bib number on down he ran as smoothly as Kipchoge. Looking well within his comfort zone Kiptum’s breakaway was sealed with a 13:49 split to hit 35K in 1:41:12 — 2:02-flat pace.
The sub 2:50 kilo pace continued all the way down the Thames Embankment with a 14:01 split through 40K, and running 6:12 over the final 2195m.
Kiptum admitted, “It was difficult between 30 and 40K, and at 41 and 42 I was so exhausted I had no energy.”
The 58:42 half-marathoner’s transition to the full distance seems complete as for a second race in a row, after some 30km of running, Kiptum was able to shift back into the 2:48 pace of a sub-59:00 HM.
Scant few marathoners split a sub-2:50 kilometer; Kipchoge recorded 8 in the first half of his WR run last October, and 4 in his 2:01:39 record run. Kiptum ran 6 consecutive sub-2:50s between 31 and 37K in Valencia, and went even faster here, averaging 2:47.5 over the final 12,195 meters.
That’s 1:57:48 marathon pace.
Kiptum’s improbable finishing speed and rise to the top tier of marathoners over the short span of 5 months and two competitions is a rare achievement. The Kenyan phenom has impacted the marathon world like an unassuming rookie pitcher hitting the big leagues and pounding the strike zone with 105mph fastballs.
Managed by Marc Corstjens, the soft-spoken Kenyan is based in Chepkorio, 6km east of Kipchoge’s Kaptagat camp. Kiptum is self-coached, often trains alone with a preference for long, hilly runs in the forest — reminiscent of Sammy Wanjiru’s ’08 Olympic year training.
“My focus now is marathon,” Kiptum said. “I have done some half-marathons, I have run 59 or 58 seven times, so I said, ‘Let me try to shape up for the marathon.’”
As for chasing Kipchoge’s WR, Kiptum demurred with the patience evidenced in his opening 30K: “I will go home and see, but not now. Maybe in 2 or 3 years with good preparation.”
Among the field’s highly decorated veterans, Kamworor was happy to run his best race since his ’19 motorbike accident: “The race was good, and I am happy that I have come back after a long time struggling with injuries.”
Mo Farah closed out his marathon career finishing 9th in 2:10:58, while Bekele was less fortunate, perhaps closing out his stellar career with a DNF.
LONDON MEN’S RESULTS
1. Kelvin Kiptum (Ken) 2:01:25 PR (WL) (2, 2 W 2 W) (course record (old cr—2:02:37 Eliud Kipchoge [Ken] ’19) (61:40/59:45) ($230,000);
2. Geoffrey Kamworor (Ken) 2:04:23 PR; 3. Tamirat Tola (Eth) 2:04:59; 4. Leul Gebresilase (Eth) 2:05:45; 5. Seifu Tura (Eth) 2:06:38; 6. Emile Cairess (GB) 2:08:07;
7. Brett Robinson (Aus) 2:10:19; 8. Phil Sesemann (GB) 2:10:23; 9. Mo Farah (GB) 2:10:28; 10. Chris Thompson (GB) 2:11:50; 11. Frank Lara (US) 2:13:29.;… dnf—Kenenisa Bekele (Eth).