The men’s race
El Mouaziz regains his crown
The men’s elite field contained practically all the world’s fastest marathoners, but the race followed the scenario of the past 2 years and held back from the pacemakers’ speed, forcing the hares to drift back to earn their wages. With the main pack running at 2:09 pace, Britain’s Mark Steinle was able to feature prominently among the leaders.
The first significant move appeared to come as a large group approached Tower Bridge. Here the 1999 winner, Abdelkader El Mouaziz of Morocco surged up to the pacemakers, forcing the reigning champion, Antonio Pinto of Portugal, to rally his troops and re-gather the escapees. The net result of those moves was that Britain’s Jon Brown came adrift and he eventually retired – reduced training, a hip problem and recent illness proving too much of a burden.
The front runners now consisted of Pinto, El Mouaziz, Kenya’s Japhet Kosgei, and the Ethiopian pair Tesfaye Tola and Tesfaye Jifar, with the elegant Kenyan Paul Tergat cruising smoothly at the back. A second and, as it turned out, decisive increase in pace by El Mouaziz took him away from his rivals. Only Tergat had the strength to chase him, but a 5 yard gap stubbornly refused to be closed.
Despite Tergat’s best intentions, the race from then was between El Mouaziz and the clock although the course record drifted away from the tough Moroccan. Still looking strong, El Mouaziz celebrated down the final straight, crossed the line in a personal best of 2:07:11, and kissed the ground beyond the finish gantry.
Steinle provided a heartening result for home fans with his 6th place in 2:10:46, continuing a steady improvement and assuring himself a place in that year’s World Championship team for Edmonton.
The women’s race
Tulu takes the title
Tegla Loroupe provided early drama in the women’s race when the world record holder came to a halt during the 2nd mile. Loroupe seemed in two minds about continuing but eventually set off 50 seconds behind the lead pack who were progressing at close to world record pace.
By 9 miles the gap from Loroupe, now running fluently, to the second group had closed to 20 seconds. The lead group, however, was a minute ahead, still operating at 2:20 pace. The two pacemakers stepped aside at halfway although one of them, Restituta Joseph, carried on to the finish and recorded a 2:43:52 debut.
Romania’s Lidia Simon stepped up the pace and the lead group immediately broke up. Confident that she was extremely fit, Simon had asked for a first half of 70 minutes from which she planned to launch an attack to get rid of Loroupe. With Loroupe long gone and Chepchumba also wilting, the only runners to take up Simon’s challenge were the two Ethiopians Derartu Tulu and Elfenesh Alemu.
Chepchumba rejoined the leading trio at 17 miles, looking comfortable, although Tulu also looked ominously relaxed. Simon was still handling the pace making duties although the mile splits had slowed and when Alemu reluctantly found herself in front the rate slowed still further to 5:40 per mile. Significantly the second group – with Loroupe at the front – began to close on the leaders and the Kenyan finally rejoined them at 22 miles, immediately slotting in next to Simon’s right elbow. Benefiting from the Kenyan’s surge, Romania’s Nuta Olaru and the Russians Alina Inanova and Svetlana Zakharova also joined the leaders. In a reversal of the usual procedure, the pack had grown in the final stages.
At the Tower of London Simon tried a little surge which was immediately covered by Loroupe. However, emerging from Blackfriars tunnel, with the pace up to 5:20 per mile, Loroupe again came loose at the back of the pack, her efforts to regain the lost yards finally taking their toll.
At 24 miles, 5 runners were still together – Zakharova, Simon, Chepchumba, Olaru and track runner Tulu who had never once showed in the lead. Crossing Parliament Square after more than 2 hours of tactical manoeuvres, Tulu at last made a positive surge and quickly established a lead over the grimacing Zakharova who in turn opened a gap on the better known Chepchumba and Simon.
Avoiding the malign intentions of two interlopers in the finish area, Tulu came home to set a personal best. Zakharova, a pacemaker 2 years before, improved her best by 3 minutes. Chepchumba raised her pace down the straight for her fifth sub-2:25 clocking in 6 races and preserved her London top 3 finish streak while Simon finished a very disappointed 4th.
The men’s wheelchair race
Lemeunier leads them home
Frenchman Denis Lemeunier won the 19th London Wheelchair Marathon by 2 minutes from defending champion Kevin Papworth in 1:42:37.
The two took the lead from the start and opened a gap of more than a minute on the chasers by 10km. At half way the Frenchman, contesting his first London Marathon, led Papworth by more than 40 seconds and was almost 4 minutes ahead of British youngsters David Weir and Tushar Patel.
Papworth, dynamic and aggressive in his bright yellow outfit, was disappointed not to repeat the previous year’s success but nevertheless established himself as a leading marathoner. Lemeunier was especially pleased to win as he’d had his chair for just 5 weeks - they normally take a year to break in.
Weir beat Patel in a sprint finish to take 3rd by a second in 1:50:05. Chris Madden, a master of ultra long distance racing, was 5th in 1:53:23, with Richie Powell 6th in 2:02:31. Bogden Krol of Poland retained the veterans’ prize, finishing 7th.
The women’s wheelchair race
Grey-Thompson films her own success
Tanni Grey-Thompson led from start to finish for an expected victory, carrying a camera to give the BBC close-up views of the race. The quadruple Paralympic champion found the weight of the battery tired her in the closing stages, but the pictures enhanced the profile of wheelchair sport.
Grey finished in 2:13:55 more than 20 minutes ahead of Deborah Brennan but slower than in previous years because of a first-half headwind and a slow puncture. This was Grey’s 5th victory in 11 starts.