April 24, 2016
The women’s race at the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon was full of drama as in the 22nd mile, this happened:
What you see there is three-time Dubai and one-time London winner Aselefech Mergia (gray bib in back) of Ethiopia taking out Kenya’s Jemima Sumgong (orange), who in turn wiped out Mary Keitany (green). Sumgong went down hard on her head but popped up and amazingly quickly rejoined the lead pack, which had consisted of seven women up until that point. Once caught up, she wasn’t content to run with the pack as she started leadin it. In the end, she was able to get rid of defending champ Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia and win in 2:22:58 to Tufa’s 2:23:03. (Video highlights of race here)
The women’s lead pack went out very fast (2:17:59 pace at 5 miles) but by halfway the pace had settled as a pack of 7 women hit halfway in 1:10:45. At that point, they were 6 seconds behind the rabbits and it was clear the leading ladies weren’t focused on running a fast time as the next mile was 5:37. The pace slowed dramatically after 30k as mile 19 was 5:47, mile 20 just 5:40 and mile 21 just 5:52. Much like in a track race, when the pace gets really slow, bad things often happen as the fall happened in the 22nd mile.
Sumgong got up and quickly rejoined the leaders roughly a minute later (she was 4 seconds down at 35k, which the leaders hit 35 seconds after the fall). Once Sumgong caught back up, she soon pushed down the pace and it became a two-woman race between her and Tufa.
Tufa had the experience of winning last year in London, and Sumgong a history of near misses including 2014 in New York, but Sumgong took the lead just after the 25-mile mark and held on for the 5-second win. She averaged 5:14.1 pace from 35k to the finish.
Sumgong Leads by Big Ben
Behind the top two, three other women broke 2:24 as half marathon world record holder Florence Kiplagat was third (2:23:39), with Belarus’s Volha Mazuronak fourth in a big pb of 2:23:54 (previous best of 2:25:36) and Mergia, who caused the fall, fifth in 2:34:57.
LetsRun.com’s #1 marathoner in the world for 2015, Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia, was just 6th in 2:24:09. Our #2 marathoner for 2015, Mary Keitany, never recovered from the fall and ended up 9th in 2:28:30.
American Sara Hall had a strong day as she lowered her PB from 2:31:14 to 2:30:06. The next two finishers behind Hall, Brits Alyson Dixon (2:31:52) and Sonia Samuels (2:32:00) both secured Olympic selection for themselves as the top two British finishers were promised Olympic spots assuming they already had the 2:31 British standard (they had it).
Leading results and our quick-take analysis appears below.
Pos. Name Country Time
1 Sumgong, Jemima (KEN) 2:22:58
2 Tufa, Tigist (ETH) 2:23:03
3 Kiplagat, Florence (KEN) 2:23:39
4 Mazuronak, Volha (BLR) 2:23:54
5 Mergia, Aselefech (ETH) 2:23:57
6 Dibaba, Mare (ETH) 2:24:09
7 Tadese, Feyse (ETH) 2:25:03
8 Jeptoo, Priscah (KEN) 2:27:27
9 Keitany, Mary (KEN) 2:28:30
10 Augusto, Jessica (POR) 2:28:53
11 Kowalska, Katarzyna (POL) 2:29:47
12 Hall, Sara (USA) 2:30:06
13 Dixon, Alyson (GBR) 2:31:52
14 Samuels, Sonia (GBR) 2:32:00
15 Van Zyl, Irvette (RSA) 2:32:20
16 Purdue, Charlotte (GBR) 2:32:48
17 Fien, Cassie (AUS) 2:33:36
18 Ross, Freya (GBR) 2:37:52
19 Kalmer, Rene (RSA) 2:39:44
Quick Thought #1: A much-deserved victory for Jemima Sumgong
The 31-year-old came into London as one of the leading candidates for “greatest woman never to have won a major.” Five times she’d finished top 4 at an Abbott World Marathon Major (counting last year’s 4th-place finish at Worlds) but never won. Twice she’d been the runner up (2013 Chicago and 2014 New York) and twice she’d run under 2:21 and not won (2013 Chicago and 2014 Boston). Doper Rita Jeptoo cost Sumgong the 2013 Chicago title but nothing stopped her from winning today, not even the late-race fall.
While one would never want to be part of a fall, who is to say it didn’t help Sumgong as pre-race favorite Mary Keitany never rejoined the leaders after falling.
Talking about the fall post-race, Sumgong said, “Mergia clipped my leg and I went down but the fall really affected me and I was unsure if I could continue. I banged my head very hard and I felt it in my legs, so I am so surprised I won.”
What didn’t have an effect on Sumgong though was the spectator who ran alongside her before almost getting tackled into her by a police officer (see photo on the left). Sumgong said, “Usually there are people outside the barriers who run with you. Some they enjoy run alongside us, so I was thinking maybe he’s enjoying running with me. No I was not scared I was not worried.”
Quick Thought #2: What do you do if you are the Kenyan and Ethiopian selectors?
If you win the London Marathon, you have to be on the Olympic team. That means Sumgong should be going. We think Kenya also has to put Helah Kiprop (2nd in Tokyo and Worlds last year, first in Tokyo this year) on the team as she’s won a major and run the fastest of any Kenyan this year (2:21:27). After that, we’d say that today’s third placer Florence Kiplagat should be on the team. She was 5th in London last year, then won in Chicago and now was the second Kenyan in London.
But can you really not take four-time major champ Mary Keitany or four-time major champ (counting her two World titles) Edna Kiplagat? If you were going to take one of them, we’d be inclined to go with the 34-year-old Keitany, who last year was 2nd in London and first in New York. Yes, she was only 9th today but she fell. When other runners see her name on the start list, they are fearful. The 36-year-old Kiplagat was only 10th in London last year and 5th at Worlds, although she was third at Tokyo in February (2:22:36).
For the Ethiopians, it’s even more difficult. The top two finishers in Boston on Monday both have compelling cases. We don’t see how the Ethiopians leave off Boston runner-up Tirfi Tsegaye as in addition to finishing 2nd in Boston, she won Dubai in a world-leading 2:19:41 and the Ethiopians love fast times.
Winning Boston may not put Atsede Baysa on the team as her time was only 2:29:19 and she hasn’t run under 2:25 since 2012 and there are a lot of other strong candidates. Today’s runner up Tigist Tufa had a very strong 2015 as she won London, finished 6th at Worlds and third in New York. And what do you do with Mare Dibaba? She was our world #1 last year as she ran 2:19:52, was 2nd in Boston and won Worlds. Do you really leave off the reigning world champ simply because she was 6th today?
And there are others. In the past, the Ethiopian selectors have gone by time so then you can’t ignore Dubai runner-up Amane Beriso (2:20:48, but only 13th in Boston), Tokyo runner-up Amane Gobena (2:21:51) or Hamburg winner Meselech Melkamu (2:21:54).
Quick Thought #3: Why don’t we ever see DQs in a marathon?
Should Aselefech Mergia be DQ’d for wiping out Sumgong and Mary Keitany?
If you take someone out from behind in a track race, you are DQ’d. In marathons, people do crazy stuff near water stops and never get DQ’d. Why?
Tell us what you think on our fan forum / messageboard: MB: Tell us what you think: Should Aselefech Mergia be DQd from 2016 London Marathon?
Quick Thought #4: Do the Brits take a third Olympian?
As mentioned above, Alyson Dixon (2:31:52) and Sonia Samuels (2:32:00) are going to the Olympics. The third Brit in today’s race, Charlotte Purdue (2:32:48), wasn’t under the British 2:31 standard. But she’s only 24 years old and she ran a strong race, and the IAAF Olympic standard is only 2:45. We hope she goes.
Did you miss our live coverage of the race on the messageboard: MB: Official London Marathon Discussion Thread.
39 degrees, feels like 34 at start. (7 mph wind out of NNW)
Group of 8 women together at start (5:25). Dibaba, Keitany, Mergia, Sumgong, Tufa, Kiplagat, Jeptoo, Tadese.
Keitany rumored to have had knee injury during buildup.
Mile 1 5:25
Mile 2 5:27 (10:53) Jeptoo dropping off the back during mile 3.
Mile 3: 5:04 (15:57) Mile 3 is downhill.
5k: 16:31. Seven women plus rabbits.
Mile 4: 5:08 (21:05)
Mile 5: 5:12 (26:17) Now on 2:17:49 pace.
Mile 6: 5:18 (31:35)
10k: 32:43 (16:12) Last 5k was even faster than Radcliffe’s split during ‘03 WR (16:12 vs 16:13)
Mile 7: 5:22 (36:57)
Mile 8: 5:32 (42:29)
Mile 9: 5:41 (48:10)
15K: 49:57 for rabbits, 50:05 for leaders (17:22). Still seven women in lead pack.
Mile 10: 5:34 (53:44)
Mile 11: 5:27 (59:11). Keitany still doing the leader, there’s a gap between leaders and rabbits.
Mile 12: 5:38 (1:04:39)
20K: 1:07:02 (17:05) Still same seven women plus pacers.
HALF: 1:10:45 (six secs behind rabbits)
Mile 14: 5:37 (1:15:14)
Mile 15: 5:27 (1:21:07)
25K: 1:24:13 (17:11) All seven still there. Keitany still leading.
Mile 17: 1:32:18. Kiplagat now the one doing the leading but they’re all still together. Dibaba makes move to the front as they move around a blind runner during mile 18.
Mile 18: 5:39 (1:37:57)
30K: 1:41:39 (17:26) Tadese in the lead now. No one staying in the lead for long.
Mile 19: 5:47 (1:43:44)
Mile 20: 5:40 (1:49:24)
Mile 21: 5:52 (1:55:16) Slowest mile of the race so far. Dibaba leading, still all seven women up there. Keitany at back of pack.
Mergia, Keitany and Sumgong all fell at 1:58:50 mark
35K: 1:59:25. (17:46) Starting to string out. It’s down to five — dibaba, sumgong, kiplagat, dibaba, tufa.
2:05 mark, now Sumgong leading the way. Dibaba, Tufa behind her.
Mile 23: 5:15 (2:05:59)
Now just Sumgong and Tufa
40K: 2:15:41 (16:16)
Mile 25: 5:16
Sumgong gets a couple of strides on Tufa just before they pass Big Ben.
The Prince and the Champs
Jemima Sumgong Leads Tigist Tufa by Big Ben