LONDON - A feat of speed by Eliud Kipchoge, rushing to a course record. A feat of fortitude by Jemima Sumgong, recovering from a painful fall to win.
The London Marathon on Sunday produced contrasting victories in the men’s and women’s races for 31-year-old Kenyans on a chilly, windy spring morning.
The first half of the men’s race was on pace to be the fastest-ever marathon, but Kipchoge couldn’t keep it up to break the world record as he defended his London title.
Kipchoge came so close, covering his eyes in disbelief as he saw he had completed the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) route in front of Buckingham Palace in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 5 seconds. Only Dennis Kimetto has run a faster marathon that counts toward records with a time of 2:02:57 in Berlin in 2014.
“I realized that I was a few seconds off the world record,” Kipchoge said. “It was not really disappointment.”
Kipchoge’s time was still more than a minute faster than the previous London record of 2:04:29 set two years ago by Wilson Kipsang, who finished fifth Sunday.
“I realized I ran a world record for 30 kilometers, then between 30 and 40 I lost about 20 seconds,” Kipchoge said. “The record can be for the next time . . . but I’m happy I ran the course record.”
Stanley Biwott was 46 seconds behind Kipchoge, while Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia was third.
The men’s race was about speed but the women’s marathon provided drama.
Sumgong claimed her first title after overcoming a fall at a water station with less than four miles remaining that left her holding her head in pain. Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia and Mary Keitany of Kenya fell with Sumgong but they couldn’t recover as strongly, finishing out of the top four.
“The Ethiopian runner clipped my leg and I went down,” Sumgong said.
Sumgong also had to contend with a spectator appearing to rush toward her before being tackled by a steward.
“After my fall I felt hurt, it was very painful because I banged my head very hard but I tried my best to persevere and win the race,” said Sumgong, who did not require stitches to treat the cut above her right eye.
She won in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 58 seconds, with defending champion Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia five seconds behind, and Florence Kiplagat third.
It was a first major marathon title for Sumgong, who had previously been a runnerup in Boston, Chicago and New York.