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Crazy Pace, No Records at London

NO RECORDS, BUT CONVINCING VICTORIES AT LONDON
FOR KEBEDE, JEPTOO

By David Monti

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

LONDON
(21-Apr) — Denied the chance to compete in the Olympic
Marathon here
last August, Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede got a well-deserved
victory on
the Mall today at the 33rd Virgin London Marathon in a
come-from-behind effort. In the women’s contest, Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo
ended up a
runaway winner in a race which was marred by a fluid station
accident
which ended Olympic champion Tiki Gelana’s chances for victory
after
she fell hard and was knocked out of contention. Just over 35,000
runners
started today’s race.

TORRID MEN’S PACE TOOK A TOLL

With
ideal conditions here this morning –bright sun accompanied by cool
temperatures– organizers had their eyes on a new world record in the
men’s race. Athletes knew that the early pace would be fast, but when
the two-mile mark was hit in 9:22 and 5-K in 14:22 (on schedule for a
2:01:15 finish time) athletes realized that the pace was simply too
fast.

“I was thinking, are they going to keep this pace going on?” double Olympic champion Mo Farah told the BBC after the race.

Nonetheless,
all of the top athletes followed the pace, except world record holder
Patrick Makau of Kenya who held back and was never a factor (he
finished 11th in 2:14:10). As Kenyan pacer Mike Kigen pounded out the
kilometers at a sub-three minute clip, pre-race favorites Wilson
Kipsang, Geoffrey Mutai, Emmanuel Mutai, Feyisa Lilesa, Stanley Biwott,
and others stayed close to Kigen.

The field got to 10-K in
28:56, a 2:02-flat pace. Like being on a thrill ride at an amusement
park, runners were just holding on, trying not to let the race get away
from them. Kebede ran a few steps behind the pacers, as did defending
champion Kipsang, Boston Marathon record holder Geoffrey Mutai, and the
other contenders. Ten men were still in the lead pack at 20-K,
including Farah, who then decided to drop out before the halfway mark
on the north side of Tower Bridge. Farah, who will make his marathon
debut here next year, was impressed with what he experienced in the
race.

“It was incredible,” Farah told the BBC just after dropping out. “The support, people coming out for me.”

Farah
said that his biggest difficulty was handling his personal drinks. He
said he missed one and had to stop and go back and pick it up.

“The
bigger challenge is picking up the drinks and getting the right
drinks,” Farah admitted. “I really made a mess of it. It’s one of the
biggest lessons of my life, really.”

Kebede faced a different,
and more serious problem. Pacemaker Kigen went through halfway in a
blistering 1:01:34, and 25-K in 1:12:58, running the 5 kilometers from
20 to 30-K in 14:30. Shortly after that, four men got away from the
rest of the field: Kenyans Emmanuel Mutai and Stanley Biwott and
Ethiopians Feyisa Lilesa and Ayele Abshero. Kebede found himself 19
seconds behind the leaders by the time he crossed the 30-K mark.
However, his confidence was actually on the upswing.

“I had a little pain in my side during the early part of the race, but as time went on it got better and better,” Kebede said.

But
the race was far from over. At about the 33-K mark, Biwott put in a
strong surge, and quickly opened up a big gap on the other three men.
Only Mutai managed to keep Biwott in sight, and realized that if he
remained patient, his compatriot may come back to him.

In the
37th kilometer (23rd mile), Mutai not only caught Biwott but blew buy
him. He instantly put a big gap Biwott who had already begun to shuffle
(he would finish 8th). It at 40-K (25 miles), Mutai had a seemingly
insurmountable 28-second lead.

But the Kenyan was tiring, and
his pace had slowed. Kebede began to draw closer and closer, and with
the race clock showing 2:03:02 he passed Mutai who could not respond.

“I
thought I might win today, but could not pick up the pace in the late
stages,” Mutai said, complaining about hip and thigh pain.

Kebede,
who would run the second half in a pedestrian 64:28, was able to enjoy
the grand finish on The Mall alone, cruising to the finish in 2:06:04,
the slowest winning time here in six years. It was Kebede’s second win
here; he also won in 2010.

“He’s the most patient, savviest
marathon runner in the world,” said Bank of America Chicago Marathon
executive race director Carey Pinkowski who had predicted that Kebede,
the winner of his race last October, would also prevail here.

Mutai
would finish second in 2:06:33, and Abshero third in 2:06:57. Defending
champion Kipsang, who lost a toenail during the race, came home fifth
and Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda finished sixth; he had
stayed behind the lead pack for most of the race.

JEPTOO ROMPS TO WIN AFTER GELANA TAKES FALL

The
two pacemakers in the women’s race, Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer and
Helah Kiprop, went hard from the gun, but the contenders chose not to
follow them. By the 10-K mark the pacers were well up the road, leaving
a pack of nine contenders: Kenya’s Jeptoo, Florence Kiplagat, Edna
Kiplagat, and Joyce Chepkirui; Japan’s Mai Ito and Yukiko Akaba; and
Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana, Meselech Melkamu and Atsede Baysa. Their pace
was reasonable, on schedule for a 2:24:15 marathon.

Five
kilometers later, disaster struck. The men’s wheelchair race caught up
to the elite women, and at the 15-K fluid station Gelana moved to her
left to pick up her bottle and got her left leg under the right wheel
of Josh Cassidy’s wheelchair. Gelana’s foot was pinned, and she crashed
face first to the pavement. Behind her, Edna Kiplagat was clipped by
another wheelchair racer (Heinz Frei), stumbled (but did not fall) and
was forced to stop.
 
PHOTO:
Mai Ito (l) and Priscah Jeptoo at the 20-K mark of the 2013 Virgin
London Marathon

“The wheelchair guy hit my left leg,”
Kiplagat explained. “I saw Tiki. She was going for water but didn’t see
him. When she turned back… she fell down.”

Gelana quickly
regained her feet then sprinted to catch up with the field. She managed
to remain with the leaders through halfway (1:11:49), but past the 25-K
mark she started to fade, and quickly went out of contention. Cassidy
was upset by the incident.

“We overtook them going 20 miles per
hour,” Cassidy told the BBC, adding that that both of his wheels
–costing $1000 each– had been damaged. He continued: “The most safe
thing is to have the wheelchairs start first without the overtake.”

Soon,
the race then came down to four: the two Kiplagat’s, Jeptoo and
Melkamu. Edna Kiplagat, the reigning world champion, and Jeptoo, the
reigning Olympic silver medalist, upped the pace, running 16:04 from 25
to 30-K. That was too hot for Florence Kiplagat and Melkamu, and it
quickly became a two-woman contest.

“I had some feeling that I could do it,” Jeptoo told reporters after the race.

Jeptoo,
who runs with an unusual knock-kneed style, kept pressing the pace, and
soon Kiplagat had to let go. Jeptoo had a 17-second lead by 35-K, and
by the time she hit the finish line in 2:20:15 she had built a final
gap of 1:17 over Kiplagat, four seconds better than Mary Keitany’s
runaway victory last year. Missing her personal best time by just one
second, she immediately fell to her knees, pressed her hands together,
looked to the sky and offered a prayer.

“I knew this morning
that I was going to run well and there was such a good field you were
always worried someone would do better,” Jeptoo said. “It wasn’t until
around 25 miles that I got that confidence back and felt I would win.”

Surprisingly,
Japan’s Akaba finished third in 2:24:43, the first Japanese woman to
reach the podium in London. Baysa and Melkamu finished fourth and
fifth, respectively, in 2:25:14 and 2:25:46, respectively. The top home
country athlete was Scotland’s Susan Partridge who clocked a personal
best 2:30:46 and qualified for the British team for the IAAF World
Championships in August by running sub-2:31.

KEBEDE, JEPTOO LEAD WORLD MARATHON MAJORS POINTS CHASE

With
their victories here today, Kebede and Jeptoo now top the points table
for the 2012/2013 World Marathon Majors championships. Kebede has 60
points to second place Wilson Kipsang (36) and Kenya’s Wesley Korir
(27). Jeptoo has 50 points to lead Boston Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo
(40) and 2012 Boston Marathon champion Sharon Cherop (35). The series
resumes with the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August.

PHOTO: Tsegaye Kebede after winning the 2013 Virgin London Marathon

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