The men’s race: Kipsang surges to commanding victory
Wilson Kipsang completed the second Kenyan double in two years as he took the men's title with the second fastest time ever over the London course, a performance which secured his place at the 2012 London Olympics.
Kipsang arrived in London as the second fastest man in history and he stamped his authority on a heavily loaded field with two bold surges in the second half of the race. Breaking free after 20 miles, he crossed the line more than two minutes clear in 2:04:44, missing Emmanuel Mutai's course record by just four seconds.
"I knew when I went away they would have to work very, very hard to beat me as I was feeling so good in myself," said Kipsang.
"I am so sorry I didn't ditch the record but winning is the most important thing for me. I feel little tired now, but I am happy and tired."
Martin Lel, the three-times London champion, repeated his runner-up place from 2011. He crossed the line in 2:06:51, outsprinting Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede by a second after the pair had come from behind in the closing stages to steal the minor podium positions.
It was yet another remarkable run from the 33-year-old who was not shortlisted by the Kenyan Olympic selectors after he dropped out of the Dubai Marathon in January with an injury.
"It's a great surprise for me to be second," said Lel. "After Dubai I didn't think I would be here, but London is in my heart so I forced myself to persevere. My training was not even at half way but I overcame it."
As for Mutai, he was seventh in 2:08:01, his worse finish in five London appearances, perhaps more affected than he'd expected by the bout of typhoid he suffered a month ago. For him, after winning the World Marathon Majors title in 2011, the Olympic dream was over.
It was a bad day for Patrick Makau too. The world record holder dropped out at 10 miles with a hamstring injury and learned a week later that he too had been left out of the Kenyan Olympic team.
World champion Abel Kirui was selected, although the London course again seemed to be too much for him. Second at 40km, Kirui again faded in the closing stages, as he had in 2010 and 2011, and crossed the line sixth in 2:07:56.
After a week of worry about cold temperatures and lashing rain, race day conditions could hardly have been better. Pacemakers Shadrack Kosgei and Philip Langat led the leaders away into under cool, cloudless skies, with light winds barely disturbing the roadside flags.
A pack of 13 settled in behind them, including Mutai and his five Kenyan colleagues, rivals for some the most fiercely contested Olympic places in any sport.
They set off at a pelt, going through the first mile in 4:41, 10 seconds quicker than 12 months' ago when Mutai set the course record. The field was soon stretched with Kirui alongside Mutai and Kipsang, while Makau looked powerful just a stride or two behind.
A pack of 11 reached 5km in 14:37 – the perfect set-up to attack the world mark of 2:03:38 – and 10km in 29:36. Interspersed among the phalanx of Kenyans were the leading Ethiopians – Feyisa Lilesa, Kebede and Bazu Worku.
With a quarter of the race gone, and the swift early miles over, they settled into steady sub-5 minute mile pace – apparently not quick enough for Makau who drifted up to the front to offer some advice to the pacemakers. Mutai also seemed impatient, running close to the pacers' heels and urging them on through south east London towards Tower Bridge and the half way mark.
Perhaps Makau was kidding himself for as Kipsang moved to the front for the first time with around nine miles gone, it was he who dropped back. Within a mile he had stepped to the side and out of the race.
Kipsang's move was decisive. He sped through half way in 62:12 with Lilesa on his tail, Worku 10 metres back and the rest suddenly floundering in the wake of his surge.
With half the race still to go, it briefly looked like a two-man contest – Kenya versus Ethiopia. But Kirui wasn't content to let them go. The world champion toyed with the lead in 2010 before slipping to fifth and didn't reach the finish in 2011; this time he clawed himself back into contention and the three leaders sped through 25km in 1:13:22, a spectacular 14:09 split.
Mutai's course record was now in threat, and Makau's world mark came back into view. Only Kipsang had been close to this pace before but it was Kirui who pushed on, leading the trio around the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf.
He passed 30km in 1:28:04, only 16 seconds outside world record pace. But Kipsang was close by and still comfortable. He made his break just before 33km and quickly opened a gap. The last quarter of the race would be his alone – the only question now being whether he could maintain the pace.
The answer came over the closing miles. With two race-winning bursts in his legs, and a wind in his face, Kipsang began to slow, his stride shortening as he headed east past the Tower of London and on to the Embankment for the long lone run to the line.
Kipsang wasn't going to endure a tense finish; having blown the rest away he had time to enjoy the closing miles. He had missed the world record by just four seconds in Frankfurt the previous October and despite a last ditch sprint for home he finished outside the London record by the same margin, letting the $25,000 course record bonus slip from his grasp.
But this was never a day about times alone. With Olympic selection on the line, it was a case of beating the rest and Kipsang did that by more than two minutes.
"My confidence grew in the race as I saw the others were not able to handle the pace," he said. "I was trying to set the pace with the pacemakers. I wanted it to be faster.
"For me, I feel I've done my part, now selection is up to the officials. They said they will decide after the London Marathon so I think it will come. Now I think I will be the Olympic favourite."
Behind him Kirui was slowing rapidly. Just one minute 25 behind at 40km, he slid from second to sixth over the last two and a bit miles as Lel emerged to add a third second place to go alongside his hat-trick of titles. As in 2011, Lel had to dig deep at the end, outsprinting Kebede to complete the Kenyan one-two.
"The last few strides were so hard, I was so pleased to beat Tsegaye," he said. "I am pleased to get second place today. It shows that my form is getting back to where it was."
Not quick enough to impress the Kenyan selectors, though. Lel had not been named in the Olympic shortlist and did not get picked for the Games.
Neither did Kebede. The Beijing bronze medalist clocked 2:06:52 while five Ethiopians in 2012 had already run quicker than 2:05. It was a tough outcome for the 2010 champion who was a distant and isolated eighth at 30km, 1:40 adrift of Kirui, buut clawed his way back up the field.
"I came here wanting to run fast enough to be selected for the Olympic Games," he said. "But maybe it's better to finish third here. This is the London Marathon."
Kebede was followed by the Moroccan pair of Adil Annani (who improved from 2:10:15 to 2:07:43) and Jaouad Gharib, who ran a world age-39 best of 2:07:44 just a month before turning 40.
With British Olympic places up for grabs, Lee Merrien was aiming for UKA's 'A' standard of 2:12, but had to be satisfied with a personal best of 2:13:41 and the honour of being first Briton for the second year in a row.
That appeared to be it for Merrien's Olympic hopes but the Channel Islander was later added to Britain's London 2012 marathon squad because he'd beaten the 'B' standard and the IOC's qualifying mark.
The women’s race: Keitany clocks Kenyan record to keep title
Mary Keitany retained her Virgin London Marathon title on a brilliant morning in the British capital, smashing the Kenyan and African record to become the third fastest woman in history as she led the first women's medal-sweep at a London Marathon.
Keitany kicked away from her compatriots in the last four miles to clock 2:18:37, 10 seconds quicker than the great Catherine Ndereba's 11-year-old mark. She was more than a minute ahead of world champion Edna Kiplagat who broke 2:20 for the first time to take second with Priscah Jeptoo third.
Keitany secured her spot at the Olympic Games with a dominating display in the London sunshine as Kenyans completely dominated by filling the first five places. After crossing the line Keitany fell to her knees before spreading her arms in celebration.
"The time was OK," she said. "The weather here all week has not been good but when I saw the sunshine this morning I knew it would be all right for me.
"I'm so delighted to win for the second time in London. We worked together until 35km and then I felt good so I decided to make a break. I was tired but I knew I could finish strongly.
"I knew I could run 2:18 but to break Catherine's national record is special for me."
Kiplagat challenged the champion until 23 miles and maintained her form over the closing stages to record her first sub-2:20 time. She crossed the line in 2:19:50, a personal best by nearly a minute.
There was a PB for Jeptoo too, the world silver medalist running 2:20:14, more than two and a half minutes inside her previous best, while Florence Kiplagat and Lucy Kabuu were fourth and fifth respectively, completing Kenya's greatest day at the London Marathon.
Germany's Irina Mikitenko was the first European home in seventh while there was good news for Britain as Claire Hallissey made the strongest possible bid for Olympic selection, finishing 11th in a personal best of 2:27:44, 40 seconds inside the target time of 2:28:24 set by Jo Pavey 12 months' before.
Mikitenko was followed by Jessica Augusto, the Portuguese star just outside her best in 2:24:59, while Scot Freya Murray was just a stride or two behind Hallissey, clocking an impressive 2:28:04 on her debut.
"I think today was the perfect day to run," said Hallissey afterwards, and indeed London was shining in all its glory as the experienced pacemakers Peninah Arusei and Joyce Chepkirui led the elite field away under cloudless skies.
Race director Dave Bedford had called it the best women's field ever seen, and with four sub-2:20 runners in the line-up, and 13 under 2:23, few could doubt it was a superb collection of talent that left Blackheath bang on 9am, set on their way by the venerable British Olympian, Dorothy Tyler.
Fittingly, perhaps, it was Britons Liz Yelling and Claire Hallissey who were the first to show alongside the pacers, with Mikitenko tucked in behind. It was a steady start (5:37 for the first mile), a little slower than the leaders had requested, although that was sure to change.
By mile two the field began to sort itself out as the leading dozen opened a gap on a second group. Eleven women reached 5km in a 16:50 – already on for a sub-2:22 finish – and by mile five the race was already an all-African affair as Mikitenko and Romania's Olympic champion Constantina Dita slipped behind.
By 10km (33:36) the leaders counted nine with Keitany comfortable in the pack. Less comfortable was Ejegayehu Dibaba. The Ethiopian, who finished second in Chicago last year, had been a doubtful starter with a foot injury and she soon dropped out.
The pace began to rise after 10 women clipped through 15km in 50:27, the five Kenyans shadowed by Ethiopians Aberu Kebede, Atsede Baysa and Koren Jelela. They crossed Tower Bridge at 20km in 67:13, and half way in 70:53, more than a minute outside the predicted pace.
With huge crowds lining the route through the Isle of Dogs, the leaders pushed on, clocking a fast 18th mile of 5:07 to cut the numbers to six, only Ethiopia's Aberu Kebede able to stay with the quintet of Kenyans.
By the time they'd passed 30km (in 1:39:53), and twisted under Canary Wharf, it had become an all-Kenyan affair – five women chasing three Olympic places. It soon became four as Keitany and Edna Kiplagat led Florence Kiplagat and Jeptoo clear of Kabuu.
They reached 35km in 1:56:01, the tempo now set for sub-2:20 finish. The race became a duel between Keitany and Kiplagat – the defending champion versus the world champion.
Just as she did 12 months' ago, Keitany threw down the gauntlet with 5:07 and 4:59 miles to open an unassailable lead. Kiplagat strained to stay in touch but the champion was away and gone. A 10-metre lead rapidly became 20, then more.
Full of running, Keitany strode out along the Embankment and passed 40km in 2:11:46, her form never faltering as she approached the sharp turn into Parliament Square, past Buckingham Palace and swept on to the finish line in The Mall. Her last two full miles clicked by in 5:02 and 5:03 to complete a second half of 67:44, making this the quickest marathon finish ever seen.
Keitany had run the seventh 5km stretch (to 35km) in 16:08, and the eighth in 15:45 – the fastest ever split in a world class marathon to complete a 10km stage in 31:53. She won by 73 seconds after completing the last 2.195km in 6:51, only five seconds slower than Kipsang in the men's race.
Kiplagat finished strongly too as Jeptoo chased her home. Florence Kiplagat was fourth in 2:20:57 holding off a late charge from Lucy Kabuu, who failed to reproduce her sparkling debut from Dubai earlier this year.
Kebede was the first non-Kenyan home in sixth, but with only two Ethiopians in the top 10, the day belonged their east African rivals.
Keitany joined Mikitenko, Paula Radcliffe, Katrin Dorre and Ingrid Kristiansen as the only women to defend the London title. After destroying the greatest women's field ever assembled she looked immediately looked forward to the Olympic contest in the same city just 16 weeks later.
"This will be my first time in the Olympic Games so it will be great for me, my family, my country and my people," she said.