The men’s race
Pinto pinches it again
In the pre-race press conference, the world record holder, Khalid Khannouchi, predicted that the London course was worth 2:06. He was proved correct. But unfortunately for the Moroccan he was not the one to do it, as Portugal’s Antonio Pinto stole the show.
Initially a large and expensive group of world class runners was content to follow the pacemakers through the halfway point in just under 64 minutes, although Pinto was always conspicuous, apparently the only racer looking for a faster pace. His two early appearances at the head of the field proved to be just feelers for a positive move during the 18th mile which took the Portuguese wine grower through mile 20 in 1:36:59 for a 4:32 split.
Throughout the final 6 miles Pinto continued to draw away from defending champion Abdelkader El Mouaziz who, uncharacteristically, had lurked anonymously in the pack. Pre-race favourite Khannouchi had been experiencing a bad time but managed to raise himself from 8th to 3rd in the final miles.
Pinto, meanwhile, was heading down The Mall to finish in 2:06:36, which eclipsed his own course record and compatriot Carlos Lopes’ European and one time world record.
The British young pretender, Mark Steinle, ran with the leading pack through 10km and was over 2 minutes ahead of the other British hopefuls at halfway. From there he ran a lonely race picking off the occasional runner until he came home in 2:11:18, well inside the Olympic qualifying time. The 2nd Briton home, Keith Cullen, also dipped under the qualifying time with his debut 2:13:37 finish and he was later added to the Olympic team.
The women’s race
Loroupe leaves the rest behind
The women’s field was, like the men’s, the strongest so far but fears that the event would develop into a tactical battle rather than an out-and-out race proved well founded. The pacemakers went off at the requested 2:22 schedule but no one took up the offer and a gap soon opened. 3 miles were covered before the gap began to close, as much from the pacemakers’ reluctance to get too far ahead as from any real increase in pace from the pack.
Later Tegla Loroupe revealed that she had been nursing a hip injury so the slow early pace suited her perfectly. Eventually Australian Kerryn McCann began to experiment with surges – a 5:26 split for mile 17 took McCann, Loroupe and Lidia Simon away, but the pack slowly closed the gap. This pattern continued - Loroupe and Simon responded to McCann’s surges and the pack gradually regained the ground they had opened up. The surges, perhaps inevitably, proved to be the Australian’s undoing but she was rewarded for the second consecutive year with a personal best time, finishing 5th in 2:25:59.
Loroupe took charge of the race on the carpeted cobbles at the Tower of London, drawing away with only Simon for company and leaving Joyce Chepchumba, who had been fighting a sore throat all week, struggling in arrears. Emerging from the shadows of Blackfriars underpass with less than 3 miles to go, it was obvious that Loroupe, the world record holder in mixed races, could easily do without the aid of male pacemakers.
The Kenyan opened a gap on the Romanian who was looking less than secure from the charging Chepchumba. However, the status quo was maintained to the finish line as Loroupe proved that she could be a great competitor as well as a great record breaker, winning in 2:24:33 from Simon’s 2:24:46 and Chepchumba’s 2:24:57.
The men’s wheelchair race
Kevin Papworth was the surprise winner of the 18th London Wheelchair Marathon when he sprinted away from South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk in the final stretch to cross the line in 1:41:50. The South African took the lead with a mile to go but Papworth, a mountain climber, found the strength to pull away as they passed Buckingham Palace. Van Dyk was 3 seconds back at the finish.
4 time winner David Holding had been dropped early and he was left to chase the leaders along with two youngsters, Tushar Patel and David Weir, both graduates from the mini-wheelchair race, Weir having won it 7 times. Holding edged ahead to take 3rd place, though Weir was given the same time, 1:47:11.
The women’s wheelchair race
Piercy picks up historic win
19 year old Sara Piercy made the most of Tanni Grey-Thompson’s unfortunate early puncture to become the first athlete to win a senior London wheelchair race after previously taking the tape in the mini event. Piercy crossed the line in a personal best 2:23:30.