Mary Keitany produced an extraordinary display of frontrunning to win her third London marathon title – and set the fastest “women only” time in history.
The 35-year-old Kenyan broke from the field after the first mile and, while her stride shortened and the pain etched on her faced grew towards the end, she always looked comfortable of victory. Her final time of 2hr 17min 01sec was the second fastest in history. Only Paula Radcliffe, whose outright world best of 2:15:25 in the 2003 London marathon was set with the help of male pacemakers, has ever gone faster.
In the men’s race Daniel Wanjuri made it a Kenyan one-two by holding off the challenge of the Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele to win in 2:05:48.
Bekele had been favourite for the race and looked comfortable until halfway, where he dramatically dropped back after appearing to get a stitch. The 21-year-old Wanjuri – no relation to the his late compatriot Sammy, the 2008 Olympic champion – stayed with a lead pack of four until 21 miles before striking clear. He looked set for a comfortable victory until Bekele suddenly picked up and started carving through the field.
As Wanjiru went through the tunnel at the Embankment, he had the shock of his life as he saw Bekele closing. With two miles remaining, he had narrowed the gap to eight seconds. Yet he could not produce a desperate last kick to overcome a rival 13 years his junior.
But the lingering memory of the day was Keitany, who beat Radcliffe’s “women only” record by 41 seconds and, just for good measure, also set a world 30km record along the way by nearly two minutes.
Indeed for much for the race it seemed that Radcliffe’s outright world record was under threat as she powered through 5km in 15:31 – a time that would have placed her 14th in the 5,000m Olympic final in Rio – and through halfway in 1:06:54.
At 30km she was 78 seconds of her nearest rival, the three-times Olympic gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba from Ethiopia. But in the final stages Dibaba looked to be on a surge until she had to briefly stop after suffering stomach cramps near the Embankment. Even so, she finished strongly to take second in an Ethiopian record of 2:17:56, which puts her third on the world all-time list. Aselefech Mergia was third in 2:23:06.
But there was disappointing news for Britain’s Jo Pavey, who was hoping to qualify for her sixth world championships, in London this summer. The 43-year-old never looked comfortable and dropped out with 16 miles after suffering cramps – only the second time she has done so. Ally Dixon was the fastest British woman home in a personal best to book her place for London, where she will be joined by Charlotte Purdue and, most likely, the third-placed Briton, Tracy Barlow.
Meanwhile Josh Griffiths, a 21-year-old club runner from Swansea, sprung a surprise as he was the first British runner home in 2:14 in his first ever marathon – a time that earns him a place in the British squad for the world championships in London.