BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, April 28—Running in his first race as the WR holder, Eliud Kipchoge claimed his fourth London Marathon title, closing exceptionally fast over the final 3 kilos to claim the course record at 2:02:37. The 34-year-old Kenyan’s clocking ranks second on the all-time list, trailing only his World Record 2:01:39. He also proved to be a superb pacemaker for the Ethiopian duo of Mosinet Geremew (2:02:55) and Mule Wasihun (2:03:16), who filled out the fastest podium in marathon history in moving to Nos. 2 & 7 on the all-time list. “It was a tactical race that I enjoyed,” Kipchoge said of his tenth straight 26-mile triumph, adding, “It is good actually to run with some people up to the last kilometers. To win, that is what I was coming for in London. I had the confidence to win for the fourth time and run a course record.”
This edition of an historically fast race was a compelling competition set up by the trio of Eric Kiptanui, Gideon Kipketer & Stephen Kiprop, who formed a striped pace-wall a stride ahead of Kipchoge and Geremew. The downhill opening 5K was covered in a comfortable 14:23, and a pack of 9 stuck to sub-2:03 pace, passing 10K in 29:01 (14:38) and 15K in 43:42 (14:41). The pace lagged as they tacked into the wind heading towards the Tower Bridge reaching 20K in 58:25 (14:43), but coming off the bridge, the runners picked up a tailwind and the pace. Halfway was passed in 61:37, and almost immediately Kipchoge and the pacers got after it. A 2:49 for kilo 22 dispatched former winners Wilson Kipsang and Daniel Wanjiru, with Mo Farah soon to follow.
“I definitely felt the pace, they were going too fast,” Farah admitted. “I saw the gap getting bigger, I tried to close and I just didn’t have it.” In a matter of a few minutes the long-anticipated Eliud vs. Mo bout had been supplanted with Kipchoge taking on a 5-man Ethiopian tag team of accomplished 2:04 performers—all of them intent on being the first to beat the Kenyan standard bearer since Kipsang turned the trick at Berlin ’13.
Dashing through the narrow streets of The Docklands, Kipchoge dished out a pair of 2:50 Ks that put an end to the hopes of Tamirat Tola—and in kilo 24 the final two pacers gave out. So, 70:00 into the race, Kipchoge took on the mantle of pacemaker for the surviving quartet of Geremew, Wasihun, Leul Gebrselassie and last year’s runner-up Shura Kitata. He kept the tempo high through a 14:13 segment, streaking across the 25K mat in 1:12:38, then beckoned his competitors to share the lead. The Kenyan ace got no takers, so he pushed on, running 8:30 over the subsequent 3K, dispatching Gebrselassie and reaching 28K in 1:21:08—2:02:16 pace.
The day’s only misstep for Kipchoge occurred when he whiffed on his fluid bottle at 30K (1:27:04), and he ran with some caution until he was able to get his next bottle at 35 (1:41:55). Fully rehydrated, he accelerated to 2:56 Ks but could not shake the 3 Ethiopians who ran in lockstep behind him. “I was very worried,” he admitted, “because you never know what will happen when everybody is at your back.”
At 38K, as the runners headed onto The Embankment and into the prevailing headwinds along the Thames, the favorite began to apply some serious pace pressure. While his ever-smooth stride belied any increased effort, the effect was most telling in his rivals who fell away one by one over the scintillating stretch run. Kitata was the first casualty, left behind 1:51:00 into the race on the uphill climb from under the Blackfriars Bridge. Geremew and Wasihun covered the move and appeared to be in good stead bracketing the Kenyan kingpin in a majestic footrace.
Then heading into the 39th kilometer Kipchoge began to smile, and over the span of a robust 2:42 kilometer put an end to the hopes of his two rivals and all of Ethiopia. A minute into the surge Wasihun started to falter. In desperation, he quickened the motion of his arms and legs, then broke form and faded from view.
That left Geremew, the youthful looking 27-year-old who has amassed a wealth of road-racing experience and finished 2nd to Mo in Chicago last October. Geremew packs plenty of power into his slight frame and was able to match Kipchoge’s every stride until they approached the 40K aid station. Eliud veered right and quickened his pace to get a clear shot at his bottle; Geremew skipped the fluids and stayed on the tangent line hoping to gain a stride or two with a bit of a sprint. No way. Kipchoge took in a couple sips and casually flipped away the bottle, all the while extending his advantage to 10m. Geremew flailed his arms in another effort to sprint, only to break with the clock at 1:56:30. In the span of 6:00, the WR holder had settled his fears and this race. Breaking out more smiles he pressed on through a 2:48 for kilo 41, and a delightful run home as he pared 28 seconds off his course record from ’16.
“I enjoyed the race but it is hard,” he admitted. “It is not as easy as everybody thinks; everything is hard.” While we are easily mesmerized by his perfected and effortless stride full of speed and power, what stood out in this stirring competition was that his eyes were wide open and fully alert through every step of this race. Like his disciplined approach to running the blue line, Kipchoge kept a sharp visual focus as a means of sustaining his concentration and pace.
Geremew held on to become the second-fastest man in history and pared 8 seconds off Kenenisa Bekele’s Ethiopian Record. “I ran with confidence through 39K but at that point I was starting to feel a little bit uncomfortable,” he said, adding, “The wind was another challenge and because of this combination I started to slow down.”
Mo came home 5th in 2:05:39, 28 seconds off his PR, after enduring an arduous race and week that had featured a pissing match with Haile Gebrselassie. “I’m disappointed in myself, I didn’t get the best out of myself,” he said. “Still, I ran 2:05 and I ran it the hard way.”
LONDON MARATHON MEN’S RESULTS
World Marathon Major: London, April 28 (point-to-point)—
1. Eliud Kipchoge (Ken) 2:02:37 (WL) (2, 2 W) (course record—old cr 2:03:05 Kipchoge ’16) (1:01:37/1:01:00) ($180,000);
2. Mosinet Geremew (Eth) 2:02:55 PR (2, 3 W) (1:01:37/1:01:18); 3. Mule Wasihun (Eth) 2:03:16 PR (7, 9 W) (1:01:37/1:01:39);
4. Shura Kitata (Eth) 2:05:01 (1:01:37/1:03:24); 5. Mo Farah (GB) 2:05:39 (1:01:38/1:04:01); 6. Tamirat Tola (Eth) 2:06:57; 7. Bashir Abdi (Bel) 2:07:03 NR; 8. Leul Gebrselassie (Eth) 2:07:15; 9. Yassine Rachik (Ita) 2:08:05 PR; 10. Callum Hawkins (GB) 2:08:14 PR; 11. Daniel Wanjiru (Ken) 2:08:40; 12. Wilson Kipsang (Ken) 2:09:18; 13. Brett Robinson (Aus) 2:10:55 (debut); 14. Jack Rayner (Aus) 2:11:06 (debut); 15. Daniel Chaves Da Silva (Bra) 2:11:10 PR; 16. Dewi Griffiths (GB) 2:11:46; 17. Ihor Olefirenko (Ukr) 2:11:55 PR; 18. Henryk Szost (Pol) 2:13:13; 19. Jonny Mellor (GB) 2:13:25; 20. Derlis Ayala (Par) 2:13:34 NR;… 24. Colin Leak (US) 2:15:02 PR; … dnf—Ahmed Osman (US);… rabbits—Eric Kiptanui (Ken), Stephen Kiprop (Ken), Gideon Kipketer (Ken), Felix Kibitok (Ken).