Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge strengthened his billing as the Rio Olympic marathon favourite by winning the London Marathon on Sunday for a second consecutive time.
The 31-year-old completed the 26.2-mile course which finished in front of Buckingham Palace in a time of two hours 3.05 minutes to take victory, only eight seconds shy of the world record set by compatriot Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2014.
Kipchoge raised his finger in celebration of win in the final straight, but appeared to realise just before the finish line he could have broken Kimetto’s record. He brought his hand to his forehead as he saw his final time, but was soon back smiling about his impressive effort.
“I am frustrated I missed the world record, but I am happy to break the course record,” Kipchoge said in a post-race interview. “I realised I had broken the 30km record (on marathon world-record pace through 18 miles), but I lost a few seconds before 35km. I tried to get it back at the end, but I just couldn’t do it.”
EliudKipchoge</a> smashing the course record <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LondonMarathon?src=hash">#LondonMarathon</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/oneinamillion?src=hash">#oneinamillion</a> 🏆🇰🇪 <a href="https://t.co/gJ463zr55E">pic.twitter.com/gJ463zr55E</a></p>— LondonMarathon (LondonMarathon) April 24, 2016
As expected, the men’s elite race started fiercely, with the leading pack running under world record pace at the ten-mile mark, before then completing the next 20 miles in the fastest time ever recorded.
Kipchoge picked off his competition one-by-one until he surged clear of the field and the eventual second placer Stanley Biwott, also of Kenya, with two miles remaining.
Biwott clocked a time of 2:03.51 seconds for the silver, while Ethiopia’s marathon great Kenenisa Bekele completed the podium by finishing nearly three and a half seconds after Kipchoge. Kimetto came ninth in 2:11.44.
Kipchoge’s mark was officially the second best marathon time ever, but with more world records generally set on the flatter Berlin circuit, which also shelters athletes from the wind, the Kenyan’s effort is now widely considered as the best marathon performance given it was run on the more challenging London course.
Kipchoge was understandably delighted with the win in a race that doubled as the unofficial Kenyan trials for this summer’s Rio Olympics, for which he has likely secured his berth and will start as a hot favourite with the world record firmly in his grasp.
In the women’s race, Jemima Sumgong ensured a Kenyan sweep of the gold medals by finishing in a time of 2:22.58, despite hitting her head on the road in a heavy fall mid-race.
Sumgong tripped at around 22 miles, apparently tangling feet with Aselefech Mergia, in an incident which also saw pre-race favourite Mary Keitany take a fall and drop from contention. However, she ignored the pain in her bleeding right temple to quickly rejoin the leading pack and pass them.
BBC Sport (@BBCSport) April 24, 2016
Defending champion Tigsit Tufa of Ethiopia, unable to rein in Sumgong in the final 600 metres, eventually finished in second with a 2:23.03, while third went to Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat.
The millionth finisher of the London Marathon in the race’s 35-year history also crossed the finish line on Sunday, though the exact person is yet to be identified.