Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru held off a late charge from Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele to win the London Marathon yesterday in two hours five minutes 48 seconds.
His triumph completed the double for Kenya after Mary Keitany sealed her third London title in a women only world record of 2:17.01, beating Britain’s Paula Radcliffe’s previous best by 41 seconds.
Radcliffe still holds the overall record of 2:15.25, which she set in a mixed gender race at the London Marathon in 2003 when she used male runners to help set the pace.
The IAAF recognises two marathon world records for women, one for “mixed gender” and the other for “women only”.
Bekele, 34, a three-time Olympic champion on the track, had been hoping to break Dennis Kimetto’s men’s world record of 2:02.57 and asked pacemakers to deliver him to the halfway mark in 61.30.
They arrived 10 seconds slower — still on world-record pace — but Bekele then fell away as his leg muscles tightened up under the strain, leaving Wanjiru, fellow Kenyans Bedan Karoki and Abel Kirui and Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa to form a four-man lead group.
However, Bekele staged a recovery and was only a handful of seconds adrift of the head of the race when Wanjiru split the lead quartet with an acceleration in the 21st mile.
Bekele overtook Lilesa, Kirui and Karoki but could not catch Wanjiru, who won by nine seconds in his first appearance at the London Marathon.
Karoki finished one minute 53 seconds down in third on his marathon debut.
“Being second is frustrating. I felt my hamstring and my right calf. I had to change my running style,” Bekele told reporters.
The women’s race was far less competitive, after Keitany made an electric start and distanced all of her rivals by mile three.
She reached 10 miles one minute ahead of Radcliffe’s overall world record, and although that pace proved unsustainable, she managed to stay comfortably ahead of the women’s only record.
Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba finished 56 seconds down in second place, while compatriot Aselefech Mergia was 6.07 minutes down in third.
Keitany said she did not think the overall record can be beaten in a women-only race such as London.
“I think 2:15 it might be impossible with a women’s only. For the women only, 2:17 is possible, but not 2:15,” she said. “I tried to push all the time. I’m very happy with the finish time.”
Last year’s winner, Jemima Sumgong of Kenya, did not defend her title after failing a drugs test earlier in the season.
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