LONDON, ENGLAND, October 04—Breaking, breaking, this just in: Eliud Kipchoge’s winning streak is over. Such has been the WR holder’s domination of the marathon over the past few years (see sidebar) that his 8th-place finish in 2:06:49 headlines just about any dispatch from the London Marathon. While the news of the Kenyan’s loss dominated, Ethiopian Tola Shura’s well-earned 2:05:41 win shouldn’t be overlooked.
“I’m truly disappointed,” the WR holder admitted as he shivered his way through a post-race interview. “I always want to win and show people you can always win if you focus yourself. Sport is unpredictable, that’s obvious. But you know what they say, if you want to enjoy sport, then accept yourself and the finishes.”
But right from the gun it appeared that Kipchoge was not quite himself. Like all of the competitors it was a challenge maintaining performance in the persistent cold wet weather. Furthering his discomfort was an inner-ear problem that worsened as the race—and time out in the elements—wore on. “My right ear got blocked,” he explained, “all of a sudden to not hear, it was not good.”
Indeed, the weather was far from good, and this race was never fast. A lead pack of 10–12 locked onto mid- to high-2:05 pace from the opening 10K (29:45) to the finish.
Halfway was crossed in 1:02:55, and the pack bunched together until Tamirat Tola threw in a testing surge at 30K. The move momentarily strung out the pack and Kipchoge uncharacteristically slipped back to 8th. The ear difficulties had clearly thrown the favorite off stride, and while he soon rejoined the leaders, he never regained his regal stride.
As a pack of 9 reached 35K in 1:44:14 (2:05:41 pace), the race looked primed for a wide-open shootout with more than a handful of proven closers. That is until Shura (also known as Tola Shura Kitata) and his yellow headband hit the front with 1:48 on the clock and over the next 17:00 the 24 year-old produced a textbook example of taking a race by the scruff and locking down a win.
“All the time I kept myself in the back to attack when I needed to,” he said of his plan. “When I went, I tried to push the pace more than before.”
Three minutes into the push Kipchoge again fell off the pace this time by 10m. Two minutes later Kipchoge and his winning streak were broken. “During the last 5K, I discovered something’s wrong,” he said. “My legs are not moving, my ear is totally blocked. I tried to keep along with the pace and tried to finish.” (Continued below)
Shura stayed at the front as the pace surged and slowed, then answered the bell heading into the final 2150m loop. “I went into the last lap to beat the others,” Shura asserted, and then proved it with his feet as he pared the lead group to 4, with fellow Ethiopians Mosinet Geremew and Sisay Lemma and Kenyan Vincent Kipchumba (2:05:09) remaining in contention.
He continued to apply constant pace pressure, and Geremew slipped off the podium 400m from the finish. The remaining trio sped home with little separation until Kipchumba unleashed a long-legged sprint à la Martin Lel, moving ahead 100m from the line. Shura had one more surge and he finished off his long drive with a final 50-meter burst to claim a 1-second win.
Shura is a huge talent, having set a World Junior (U20) best of 2:08:53 in ’15 and a 2:04:49 PR in London ’18 while finishing 2nd to Kipchoge. After finishing a not-too-distant 4th here last year Shura sought the counsel of famed countryman Kenenisa Bekele, who withdrew from the race on Friday. “I am very happy to win this race against a very strong field,” said Shura. “I prepared very well and Kenenisa helped me. I was a training mate with him and he advised me on how to run these races.”
LONDON MARATHON MEN’S RESULTS
London, England, October 04 (2150m loop course)—
1. Tola Shura (Eth) 2:05:41 (1:02:56/1:02:45); 2. Vincent Torotich (Ken) 2:05:42 (1:02:54/1:02:42); 3. Sisay Lemma (Eth) 2:05:45 (1:02:56/1:02:49); 4. Mosinet Geremew (Eth) 2:06:04; 5. Mule Wasihun (Eth) 2:06:08; 6. Tamirat Tola (Eth) 2:06:41; 7. Benson Kipruto (Ken) 2:06:42; 8. Eliud Kipchoge (Ken) 2:06:49 (1:02:55/1:03:54); 9. Sondre Moen (Nor) 2:09:01; 10. Marius Kipserem (Ken) 2:09:25;
11. Steve Scullion (Ire) 2:09:49 PR; 12. Peter Herzog (Aut) 2:10:06 PR; 13. Jonathan Mellor (GB) 2:10:38; 14. Tristan Woodfine (Can) 2:10:51 PR; 15. Ben Connor (GB) 2:11:20 PR; 16. Juan Luis Barrios (Mex) 2:11:37; 17. Jared Ward (US) 2:12:38 (1:04:24/1:08:14); 18. Joshua Griffiths (GB) 2:13:11 PR; 19. Chris Thompson (GB) 2:13:32; 20. Charlie Hulson (GB) 2:13:34 PR; 21. Melikhaya Frans (SA) 2:13:50 PR; 22. Arne Gabius (Ger) 2:14:25; 23. Gideon Kipketer (Ken) 2:14:36; 24. Adam Hickey (GB) 2:17:38; 25. Josh Lunn (GB) 2:17:59 PR.