The men’s race
Khannouchi claims world record
Moroccan-born USA citizen Khalid Khannouchi achieved his ambition of winning the London Marathon and in a fascinating race he shaded his own world record by 4 seconds.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s Paul Tergat finally vanquished his nemesis Haile Gebrselassie and ran to within 6 seconds of the old world record, while Gebrselassie himself made an amazing debut of 2:06:35 (pushing deposed course record holder Antonio Pinto down to 4th on the all-time London lists). Such was the power of Khannouchi’s final surge, however, Gebrselassie finished nearly a minute down on the winner.
Defending champion, Abdelkader El Mouaziz, had the galling experience of falling at 20km. Although he recovered enough to reduce his best time to 2:06:50 and finish in 4th place, this was obviously small compensation to the highly competitive Moroccan. Behind him, South Africa’s Ian Syster removed over 6 minutes from his previous best to post 2:07:06 and move into world class, 23 seconds in front of European champion Stefano Baldini who in turn set a personal best.
The decisive moments of the race came as three leaders – Gebrselassie, Khannouchi and Tergat – wound up the pace on The Embankment with Big Ben in sight. The Ethiopian had been looking good at the front but when Khannouchi started a long surge for home he was quickly dropped. Although diligently drinking water throughout, the man who had set 15 world records ignored the sports drinks on offer and was now suffering the consequences with cramping in his legs. As in 2001, Paul Tergat chased the leader hard but was once again the bridesmaid. On this occasion he finished in a time that was out of the reach of all but one other man – unfortunately for Tergat that other man was also in the race.
From a British point of view the best news was Mark Steinle’s continued improvement. He handled the hot pace and finished in 8th place, lowering his personal record by more than a minute to 2:09:16. On the British all-time lists, he had elevated himself from 19th to 8th.
The women’s race
Radcliffe races to record debut
In ideal conditions for distance running, Paula Radcliffe erased every women’s marathon record on the books bar Catherine Ndereba’s world mark of 2:18:47, which was set in a mixed race in Chicago. The British runner comprehensively destroyed a talent-packed field after breaking away in the 9th mile, with injections of sub 5:10 miles in the 2nd half of the race.
It soon became obvious that Radcliffe wanted to run quickly, and she was always at the front of a leading pack that trailed the two pacemakers by 10 seconds through the early miles. By 6 miles the pack had closed on the pacemakers but after 37 minutes of running Radcliffe started to move clear, running easily alongside pacemaker Iness Chenonge.
At 10 miles – reached in 54:26 by Radcliffe – Kenya’s Susan Chepkemei and defending champion Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia attempted to build a response, but Radcliffe’s answer was an 11th mile in 5:17, the fastest so far. This was made to look pedestrian, however, during mile 15 which the Bedford runner covered in 5:08.
For much of the second half of the race, Japan’s Reiko Tosa, 2nd in the 2001 World Championship marathon, took on the burden of leading the chasing group with the two Russians Svetlana Zakharova and Lyudmila Petrova content to sit behind with Chepkemei. The latter suffered a bout of sickness on the cobblestones of the Tower of London, and from there her chances of a podium place looked slim.
All this time, Radcliffe’s long legs were devouring the miles, defying the logic that said you don’t run this fast in your debut marathon. With the result no longer in doubt, it was now a question of just how fast. When the 24th and 25th miles were ticked off in 5:09 and 5:06, the world record looked under serious threat. That this mixed-race record survived took nothing away from Radcliffe’s outstanding 2:18:56 effort - in a women-only race it was an intrinsically superior performance.
The next four runners all posted personal best times. Zakharova bustled her way to 2nd place in 2:22:31, a Russian record, beating her countrywoman Petrova by 2 seconds. Tosa achieved her aim of beating 2:23:00 with her 2:22:46, and Chepkemei overcame sickness to edge inside her previous best by 4 seconds with 2:23:18.
A measure of Radcliffe’s time is that it beat the English qualifying standard for the men’s marathon in the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
The men’s wheelchair race
Weir the winner
David Weir became the first male winner of the London Mini Wheelchair Marathon to later triumph at the full distance.
Normally a sprint finisher, this year Weir adopted different tactics. A group of 8 racers were drafting and exchanging lead positions until the half distance when Frenchman Pierre Fairbank, the fastest in the field and favourite, pulled away.
Fairbank’s advantage disappeared when he had an accident at a small traffic island, losing a lot of ground. Weir used the opportunity to test the field, and he soon opened an unexpected gap that grew to more than a minute and a half by the finish. He knocked 7 minutes 16 from his previous best.
The chasing group of three athletes all turned into The Mall together and in the ensuing sprint Tushar Patel took a tiny lead which he held to the line. The 2001 winner, Frenchman Denis Lemeunier, took 3rd with a surge in the last 20 metres, beating Paul Nunnari, the Sydney Marathon champion. The first six athletes all finished under 2 hours.
The women’s wheelchair race
Grey-Thompson takes victory six
Tanni Grey-Thompson won the London Marathon for a 6th time just 9 weeks after giving birth to Carys, her first child. Not surprisingly she took it easy – by her standards.
She was followed home by promising newcomer Michelle Lewis, the youngest MBE in the country for 60 years, who produced a personal best of 2:37:07.
Civil servant Paula Craig also recorded a personal best. Craig ran the marathon 6 times and had a personal best of 2:57 so was pleased to beat her running time with 2:48:53. Craig was knocked off her bicycle in May 2001 while training for a triathlon.