Four Thoughts On London: The Sprint Finish, Dibaba’s Dropped Bottle And Debut, And Kiplagat Coming Through

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by: LetsRun.com
April 13, 2014

The 2014 women’s London Marathon lived up to its hype. Over the last 200 plus meters, two time defending world champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya outkicked the recent world record holder in the half-marathon Florence Kiplagat also of Kenya for the win.

The world’s greatest female track runner ever, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia was just 14 seconds back in 3rd.

LRC recap at this link. RRW here. Analysis below.

1) The Water Bottle Drop

Dibaba drops her bottle

Both Kiplagats and Dibaba were running together just before 30k when Dibaba dropped her water bottle. Dibaba, the marathon novice, then made a curious decision. She stopped to pick it up.

By the time she picked up the bottle, the Kiplagats were surging away, and Dibaba would be in no woman’s land the rest of the race, all alone.

The easy explanation is the water bottle drop cost Dibaba the race. However, if you look at the splits, its easy to argue it didn’t. By 30km, Dibaba had surged to try and catch back up, and was only 3 seconds in arrears. She then lost ground the next 10km. By 35k, she was 12 seconds back and by 40k 17 seconds back (she would make up 3 seconds on the leaders the last 2km). Dibaba lost ground after the water bottle drop, not just because of it.

Dibaba however was running all alone. We will never know what would have happened if she did the smart thing and grabbed an electrolyte drink or water from one of the aid stations, instead of stopping to get her bottle.

A veteran marathoner doesn’t stop to pick up a bottle. Marathon rookies have such fear of the distance and hear so much about the importance of taking fluids, that it makes sense Dibaba stopped. We don’t think it cost her the race, but do know one thing, the next time Dibaba drops a bottle, we bet she won’t stop to pick it up.

Dibaba stops after the drop

Dibaba stops after the drop

2) Dibaba’s Debut is Very Solid

Tirunesh Dibaba is the greatest female track distance runner ever on the planet (8 World and Olympic golds). She didn’t win her debut here, but it was a very solid debut, the third fastest ever (ht to NBCSportsLucy Kabuu 2:19:32 and Paula Radcliffe (2:18:56) are faster).

Paula Radcliffe’s debut win in London in 2002 (2:18:56) set an unrealistcly high bar for the women. Radcliffe is by far the greatest female marathoner ever. History shows most people improve at the marathon as they gain a little experience.

The future is very bright for Tirunesh in the marathon.

Edna Kiplagat wins 2014 London Marathon

Edna Kiplagat wins 2014 London Marathon

3) Kiplagat Gets The Win in London Finally: The New #1 in the World?

Edna Kiplagat is the two time defending World Champion and the winner of the 2010 NYC Marathon, so she’s no marathon slouch.

The one thing she had not done was win in London or win a major city marathon since her victory in New York.

Third in 2011, second the last two years (with a 20th place finish at the London Olympics in between), Edna finally got the London monkey off her back.

Kiplagat may be the #1 marathoner in the world right now. Rita Jeptoo and Priscah Jeptoo were ranked ahead of her last year according to Track and Field News. Priscah, the defending champ, was in the race today and with the lead pack until before 30k, when she just stepped off the road suddenly. David Monti reports Priscah felt a pop in her calf and was limping after the race.

Rita will be running Boston next Monday.

4) Kicking at the End of the Marathon Has Nothing to Do With Footspeed

This one came down to the sprint between the two Kiplagats. Florence is the recent world record holder at the half marathon (1:05:12), and the Kenyan record holder at 10,000m (30:11). Edna is nearly two minutes slower at the half-marathon (1:07:41 best) and over a minute slower at 10,000m (31:18 road best).

Yet who won? The “slower” Kiplagat,  Edna.

Kicking at the end of the marathon has almost nothing to do with footspeed. The athlete who has the most left will win. The next time the marathon comes down to a sprint finish, and the announcers start talking about footspeed, ignore them.