The men’s race
Lel pushes past his fear
The men’s race – which included the current Olympic and world champions, the world record holder and world all-time number 2 – followed the pattern of recent years with a large and extremely talented pack prowling behind the pacemakers until well past the half-way mark.
Approaching half way, the 2004 champion, Evans Rutto of Kenya, indulged himself with bursts of pace which the South African Hendrick Ramaala, the 2004 New York winner, later described as “very painful”. “We survived”, said Ramaala later. “I told myself I am here to race these people.”
The repeated changes of pace eventually broke up the large pack and Italy’s Stefano Baldini, the Olympic champion, was among those to be cut adrift, along with Britain’s Jon Brown, 4th in that Olympic race. At 10km the leading group had numbered 19, by half way, reached in 63:22, it was down to 11, including the two pacemakers.
By 35km it was 6 - Kenya’s Martin Lel set the pace, followed by Ramaala, Morocco’s world champion Jaouad Gharib, Rutto – for once taking a back seat – and the two fastest marathoners in the world, Kenyans Paul Tergat and Sammy Korir.
Lel’s pace first killed off Rutto and Korir, reducing the pack to 4. Then Tergat was in trouble and, with the medals decided, it was just a matter of who got which colour. At 20 miles Tergat had told Lel to “Push, push!”, and that is exactly what he did over the last 5km. “I used to fear going in front”, he said. “But for sure my workouts indicated I would make a best time. It was high time for me.”
So it was. Lel came home in 2:07:26, 23 seconds in front of Gharib with Ramaala crossing the line 43 seconds later. Morocco’s 2 time London winner Abdelkader El Mouaziz picked off the fading Kenyans to take 4th spot in 2:09:03.
Running tough, Baldini and Brown also came through in the closing stages for 5th and 6th places respectively, Brown setting a lifetime best of 2:09:31 to move him up to 12th on the British all-time list.
The women’s race
London belongs to Paula
Paula Radcliffe’s performance in 2005 was every bit as dominating as the previous two, banishing any lingering doubts she might have had after her 2004 Olympic disappointment. Her record in the London Marathon reads 3 starts, 3 wins, 3 world records.
Having asked to be paced through the half-marathon mark in 68:30, Radcliffe dispensed with pacemaker services in the 5th mile and passed half way alone in 68:27. For once she failed to run a negative split but still came home in the 3rd fastest time ever for a women-only record of 2:17:42, improving the time she’d set in 2002 by 74 seconds.
What’s more, she did so despite losing around 15 seconds in the 23rd mile when she stopped to relieve stomach problems. Only she has run faster, when setting two world records aided by male pacemakers.
Radcliffe’s intentions were clear from the start. Slotting in behind the pacemakers – Leah Malot of Kenya and Tanzania’s Restituta Joseph – she ran the first mile in 5:03 and already had clear road behind her. After just 7 minutes of running, Joseph dropped off the pace, providing a target for Susan Chepkemei – the Kenyan who finished a close 2nd behind Radcliffe in 2004’s New York Marathon – and her compatriot Margaret Okayo.
Behind these two the world class field was already well strung out. The downhill 3rd mile was run in 4:58 and the 5 kilometre mark was reached in 15:47, prompting the BBC’s computer to predict a 2:11:52 finish. During miles 5 and 6 Radcliffe made some slight but significant moves and reached the Cutty Sark pulling away from the two Kenyans.
At 15 kilometres she led by 28 seconds from Okayo who in turn was 19 seconds clear of Chepkemei. Interestingly, in 4th place – 1 minute 30 seconds down on the leader – was Romania’s Constantina Tomescu-Dita, better known for her blitz-starts than caution.
From there, Radcliffe’s miles averaged around 5:15 as she ground out a relentless pace towards The Mall. Tomescu-Dita closed on the Kenyan duo and by 30km the Romanian had moved into 2nd, 1:24 ahead of Okayo. 5 kilometres later Chepkemei again passed Okayo and that is how it remained for the rest of the race.
Radcliffe’s drive to the finish continued into the 23rd mile where she suddenly swerved to the side and stopped. The watching TV audience must have had flashes of her Athens disaster – but 15 seconds later she set off again. Explaining the incident after the race, she said “I had stomach problems at around 16 miles and I should have ‘gone’ before I did, but I didn’t want to resort to that in front of thousands of people.”
Suitably relieved, Radcliffe continued pushing against the wind, completely unaware of her 4 minute plus lead because of the crowd noise. “They were so loud in places I thought I would be deafened”, she said. Radcliffe came home to yet more delirious cheering, 1 minute and 14 seconds faster than her women-only world record.
“I knew I was in good shape for this race,” she said. “I was approaching 2:15 shape but the day wasn’t perfect. It was definitely windier than 2003 (when she set her world record). In New York I was winging it but I definitely feel I am capable of approaching that time again.”
Tomescu-Dita was surprised and delighted by her 2nd place and lifetime best of 2:22:50. “I was hoping for a place in the first 5 and a fast time”, she said. Asked if she now feels she can beat Radcliffe she replied, “No way!”
Chepkemei, in 3rd, also bowed to the faster woman. “I thought I would give Paula a race but it was not possible”, she said. “I slowed when I saw how fast she was running, I run how my body tells me.”
The men’s wheelchair race
Mendoza makes it two from two
Saul Mendoza retained his title in 1:35:51 after bursting ahead of a pack of seven in Birdcage Walk with just 800 metres to go. It was one of the most thrilling races in London’s history as just 13 seconds separated the top seven.
The Mexican was always in a leading group who drafted and slipstreamed for most of the race. The others included previous winners, David Weir and Denis Lemeunier, plus Briton Tushar Patel, Canadian Jeff Adams and Frenchmen Eric Teurnier and Alain Fuss.
“There was lots of competition today and it was a tactical race, which meant slower times than expected”, said Mendoza who had lost the Paris marathon the week before week by just 0.01 seconds to South African Ernst Van Dyk.
Adams tried to break the pack with 4 miles to go, but had to be satisfied with the runner-up spot, just 3 seconds behind Mendoza. “I realised I had gone too early but was pleased to hang on for second spot”, said Adams. “It was a much better performance than last year when I finished 5th.”
Weir out-sprinted his training partner Patel and Teurnier for 3rd with all three recording the same time of 1:36:03. Just a second further back, Lemeunier and Fuss completed the top seven.
British athletes old and new battled it out in the middle of the field. David Holding, who retired from serious athletics after the Athens Paralympics, was 12th in 1:50:26. Just behind him in the same time was ‘new kid on the block’ and 2004 mini wheelchair winner, Brian Alldis, who set a personal best by 40 minutes.
The women’s wheelchair race
Porcellato hits a hat-trick
Francesca Porcellato completed the first hat-trick of victories since Kay MacShane won three London titles between 1984 and1986. The Italian had a battle on her hands though, as Britain’s 18 year old rising star Shelly Woods stayed in contention until the last 400m when Porcellato used her experience to pull away for victory in 1:56:59.
These two had raced together with crowd-favourite and 6 times winner Tanni Grey-Thompson until 15 miles when Grey-Thompson began to lose touch. Woods, a double mini-marathon winner, was making her full marathon debut and did well to finish only 5 seconds adrift of the Italian.
Obviously excited with her performance, Woods broke into a broad smile. “I am really pleased with my time but I’m not sure yet if I will become a marathon specialist”, she said. “My immediate target is to qualify for the European Championships in August and eventually to compete perhaps at 1500m and 5000m at the Beijing Paralympics.”
Grey-Thompson finished third in 2:02:39 saying, “I did not expect to win and even 3rd is a miracle.”