By Peter Hall
LONDON (Reuters) - Eliud Kipchoge ran the second fastest marathon time ever to clinch his fourth London Marathon title on Sunday, ahead of Britain's Mo Farah who struggled in fifth, while Kenya's Brigid Kosgei impressed to win the women's race.
Kenya's Kipchoge made it an incredible 11 marathon wins from 12 races, leading from start to finish to come home in a time of two hours, two minutes and 37 seconds -- 58 seconds off his own world record set last year in Berlin.
The women's race got off to a slow start, but reigning champion Vivian Cheruiyot ran a fast 15th mile, before Chicago Marathon champion Kosgei took the lead and strode to her first London title with a time of 02:18:20.
Kipchoge was expected to be challenged by Farah, but having kept up with the imperious Kenyan early on, Farah struggled in the latter stages.
He finished over three minutes behind the winner, who is regarded by many as the greatest athlete of all time.
"It feels strange to be considered the most successful elite man in racing, it's really good and I'm very, very happy to have won four times," Kipchoge said.
"I know how to win this race and I was confident and didn't feel it was in doubt at any point."
Farah's pre-race preparations were marked by a dispute with fellow distance-running great Haile Gebrselassie.
However, the multi-Olympic, world and European champion over 10,000 and 5,000 metres said the dispute did not act as a distraction ahead of his third London Marathon.
"I didn't think the fuss affected my run and I wasn't distracted by the build up," Farah said. "It was all about London today and so I put my head down, did my best.
"I don't regret anything I said and I respect the race."
In the women's race, three-times winner Mary Keitany was the favourite with the field going for the women's only record -- without the aid of male pacemakers -- set by Keitany in London in 2017.
Keitany, however, never troubled Chicago Marathon champion Kosgei and last year's winner Cheruiyot out in front, finishing down in fifth, 2:38 slower than Kosgei.
Kosgei broke clear of Cheruiyot to win having ran the fastest second half of a marathon ever.
"To smash my personal best is all I could to ask for," Kosgei said. "I always get tempted to go with the leaders, but now I run better in the second half so I held back and that worked for me."
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Toby Davis)