In a clinical demolition of competition, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge ran the second fastest marathon in history to claim top honors at the 2019 London Marathon.
He covered the distance in two hours, two minutes and 37 seconds, a new course record.
The current world record – 2:01:39 – also held by Kipchoge, was set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. Among the World Marathon Majors (of which the London Marathon is one), Berlin is reputed to have the fastest course.
Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei won in the women’s category in London with a timing of 2:18:20. She was followed by fellow Kenyan Vivien Cheruiyot (2:20:14) and Roza Dereje (2:20:51) of Ethiopia. Finishing second among men in London on Sunday (April 28, 2019) was Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew (2:02:55). The third place went to Mule Wasihun (2:03:16), also of Ethiopia.
In the event’s wheelchair race, Daniel Romanchuk of US finished first among men while Manuela Schar of Switzerland took top honors among women.
Sunday’s triumph was Kipchoge’s fourth win at the London Marathon, making him the first person to do so. He previously won the race in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Adding to his formidable reputation was that when he set the world record in Berlin, he shaved off 78 seconds from the previous record. Further as per information on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) he was heading to London with a race record of 11 marathons won from the 12 he took part in, including the 2016 Olympic title. On the eve of 2019 London Marathon, a big question was – can competition check Kipchoge’s march? Even as eventual winner on Sunday was Kipchoge, a trio of Ethiopian runners kept him company in the lead pack; the three Ethiopians performed creditably keeping the group intact for almost three quarters of the race. As Kipchoge’s relentless pace began to bite, they dropped back one by one, leaving it to Geremew to chase the Kenyan athlete often described as the greatest marathon runner yet, to the finish line. The Ethiopian finished 18 seconds behind Kipchoge.
Mo Farah, whose presence (he along with Kosgei were winners at the 2018 edition of the Chicago Marathon) was billed as competition to Kipchoge ahead of the race, had to settle for fifth position. Only the second athlete in the history of the modern Olympics to win both the 5000m and 10,000m at successive Olympic Games, Farah with one World Marathon Major victory to his name has been having a tough transition to the marathon. Although the event’s publicity machinery drummed up a Kipchoge versus Farah race, the British runner came into the race with at least seven other participants having personal best (PB) superior to his. He finished in 2:05:39, to place fifth. The run up to the 2019 London Marathon was marred by a spat between Haile Gebrselassie, one of the all-time greats of marathon, and Farah. As reported in The Guardian’s live coverage of Sunday’s race, following his fifth place-finish Farah told the media that the controversial spat hadn’t been cause for distraction. “ I felt great at the start, felt great halfway, but when the pacemakers dropped out at 20 miles, they got a gap on me and that gap was hard to close … from 20 miles the wheels came off and I was just hanging in there, to be honest,” The Guardian quoted him as saying.
India’s Nitendra Singh Rawat, who ran in the elite section of the men’s marathon, covered the distance in 2:15:59 to place 27th overall. It was certainly fast by Indian standards but not among Rawat’s own fastest runs. In 2016, Rawat had set a course record of 2:15:48 at the Mumbai Marathon. In January 2019, at the same Mumbai event, he had romped home in 2:15:52. According to reports in the national media, Rawat is the first Indian athlete to run in the elite category of the London Marathon.
Reports ahead of race day said that over 40,000 people were scheduled to participate in the 2019 London Marathon.
(The authors Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)