London Marathon 2010 Recap: Kebede and Shobukhova Shine

By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

LONDON (25-Apr) -- While defending champions Samuel Wanjiru and Irina Mikitenko weren't able to make it to the majestic finish line on The Mall, Tsegaye Kebede and Liliya Shobukhova literally flew there, winning their first Virgin London Marathons, both defeating deep fields.  Today marked the 30th running of Britain's largest marathon.

For Kebede, the bronze medallist from both the 2008 Beijing Olympic and 2009 World Championships Marathons, his was a perfectly executed race.  Tucked in the lead pack behind five Kenyan pacemakers, Kebede cruised through half-way in a conservative 1:03:06.  At that point he still had plenty of company, including Kenyans Emmanuel Mutai, Abel Kirui and Duncan Kibet; Eritreans Zersenay Tadese and Yonas Kifle; Brazilian Marilson Gomes dos Santos; and Moroccans Abderrahime Bouramdane and Jaouad Gharib.

Apr. 25, 2010 - London, UNITED KINGDOM - epa02131162 Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia crosses the finish line to win the Virgin London Marathon in London, Britain, 25 April 2010. With more than 37,000 participants registered, the London Marathon reached a new record on its 30th anniversary.

"The pacemakers were a bit too slow," commented Mutai, last summer's World Championships Marathon silver medallist, after the race.  "After 25 (kilometers) they stopped, so we had to go ourselves."

And go they did.  When the last pacemaker Titus Mbishei literally waved goodbye and stepped off of the course, the pace had indeed picked up significantly.  Kebede, and reigning the world marathon champion Kirui, decided to break up the race.  They ran miles 14, 15 and 16 in 4:39, 4:39 and 4:37, respectively, covering the 5 kilometers through 25-K in a very fast 14:26.  While Mutai, Bouramdane, Gharib and dos Santos remained in contention, Wanjiru did not. He was already 11 seconds behind, and would never make it to the 30-K checkpoint, dropping out of his first marathon.

"I got an injury," said Wanjiru touching his right knee as he stood in the lobby of his hotel after the race.  His shoulders wrapped in a Mylar blanket, he added: "I will be OK."

Like two boxers going toe-to-to, Kebede and Kirui were now trading surges, while Mutai ran slightly behind them trying to hold a steady pace.  Soon, the much taller Kirui's form began to deteriorate, and it was clear he was struggling (his manager Valentijn Trouw later said he had stomach problems).  Kirui was still next to Kebede through 30-K (1:28:46), but Mutai had now fallen six seconds back, and Bouramdane and Gharib were even farther behind.  It was now a two-man race.

"Basically, the pacemakers in the first 30 kilometers they encouraged us to run," said Kebede.  "Then I had to make my own personal action after that."

The decisive move came in the 20th mile which Kebede split in 4:38.  Kirui fell back rapidly, and the race for first was over.  The only question remaining was whether Kebede's high pace in the second half would be good enough for him to challenge Wanjiru's course record of 2:05:10 set last year.

"I didn't think I would run 2:05," Kebede said.  "There was rain, there was wind. I'm very happy to run two-zero-five."  He added: "If there was no rain, I think two-zero-four."

Olympic bronze medallist Tsegaye Kebede (R) of Ethiopia runs next to Abel Kirui of Kenya during the London men's marathon in London April 25, 2010. Kebede ran an untroubled victory in an unofficial two hours five minutes 18 seconds. Kebede, who finished second to Olympic gold medallist Sammy Wanjiru last year after a fierce battle over the final stages, was grouped with two other Kenyans Abel Kirui and Emmanuel Mutai at the 35 kms mark. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Despite sprinting full speed down the entire finish straight, Kebede would fall short of the race record.  Nonetheless, he clocked the third-fastest time ever here, 2:05:19, just one second shy of his career best.  Behind him, Kirui had blown up, and Mutai (2:06:23), Gharib (2:06:55), and Bouramdane (2:07:33) all got past the affable Kenyan to finish second, third and fourth, respectively.  Kirui ended up in fifth in 2:08:04 and Tadese, who had set a half-marathon world record in Lisbon on March 21, finished seventh in 2:12:03, his first completed marathon.

For a change, the British had something to celebrate in the men's race.  Scotsman Andrew Lemoncello, who trains under coach Greg McMillan in Flagstaff, Ariz., finished 8th in his debut, clocking 2:13:40, and Andi Jones ran 2:16:38, to finish 10th.


Unlike the men, the women only had a single pacer to follow, Hungary's Anikó Kálovics.  She had been asked to run 71 minutes for the first half, and the field was at first reluctant to follow her.  But by 5-K, the pack of 16 had come to Kálovics's heels, including the smooth-striding Shobukhova.

Through 10-K (33:17), all the favorites were there but one: American Deena Kastor, the 2006 London champion.  She had fallen 33 seconds behind, and was not feeling her best.

25: Liliya Shobukhova of Russia crosses the finish line to win the VLM Womens Elite section of the 2010 Virgin London Marathon on April 25, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

"I really felt terrible right from the start," said Kastor in an interview.  She continued: "I just felt tight and stiff at the beginning of the race and it never shook out."

The next to falter was Mikitenko.  She had been struggling with shin pain in her training which, her husband Alex said, had intensified during the race. She fell 48 seconds back by 15-K, then dropped out shortly after.

Also in the lead group was Britain's Mara Yamauchi.  She looked smooth, wearing a small good luck charm pinned to her racing uniform, but she was working too hard to keep on the pace.

"I ran ten miles but it felt like 20 miles," Yamauchi said later.

Kálovics got to the half-way point in 1:10:55, then dropped out.  From that point, Shobukhova took over the pace and remained on the front mile after mile.  Through 25-K (1:24:04) there were still eight women in contention: Shobukhova; Japan's Mari Ozaki and Yukiko Akaba; Ethiopia's Aselefech Mergia, Askale Tafa, and Bezunesh Bekele; China's Bai Xue, the world champion; and Russia's Inga Abitova.  Shobukhova refused to surrender the lead.

"I feel comfortable on the pace we were running," she told reporters at the post-race press conference through an interpreter.  "I felt comfortable that this is the pace we should run."

The pace remained steady through 35-K (1:58:25), then Mergia decided to test Shobukhova.  The Ethiopian, who was the bronze medallist at last summer's World Championships Marathon, covered the 23rd mile in 5:18, and as the rain began to fall again, only Mergia, Shobukhova and Abitova were able to remain in contention.

Like in Chicago last October, Shobukhova was counting on her finishing speed to carry her to victory.  The European 5000m record holder was feeling confident as she drafted Mergia and waited.

"I believe the experience I had on the track helped me today tremendously," she explained.  "I was relying on my kick on the finish line."

She didn't have to wait that long.  Shobukhova surged ahead before 40-K, and in a few moments victory was out of reach for the others.  She made the right hand turn onto the Mall alone, and pushed the last few hundred meters to finish in 2:22-flat, a personal best.  Abitova, who had been running third, passed the tiring Mergia to capture second in 2:22:19, another personal best.  Mergia came home third in 2:22:38, also a career best.

Both Kastor and Yamauchi finished, but not as they had hoped.  Kastor, who said she was tempted to drop out twice because the course passed her hotel as many times, finished 18th in 2:36:20.  Yamauchi would finish 10th in 2:26:19.  Ahead of them, New Zealand's Kim Smith finished her first marathon in 2:25:21, good for 8th place and a New Zealand record.

Shobukhova said she was not satisfied just to be the Chicago and London Marathon champion.  She has already set an even higher goal.

"I believe the Olympic Games, to qualify for the Olympic games," she said.  "Be number one in the Olympic Games."

  #  #  #  #  #  #

Although the finisher totals had not yet been tallied, the race reported that 37,527 runners had picked up their bib numbers, the most ever in race history.

Editor's note: David Monti is the professional athlete coordinator for the ING NYC Marathon.

Deeper Results With splits here on the Virgin London website

Men's Top Results

1 Kebede, Tsegaye (ETH) 02:05:19
2 Mutai, Emmanuel (KEN) 02:06:23
3 Gharib, Jaouad (MAR) 02:06:55
4 Bouramdane, Abderrahime (MAR) 02:07:33
5 Kirui, Abel (KEN) 02:08:04
6 Gomes dos Santos, Marilson (BRA) 02:08:46
7 Tadese, Zersenay (ERI) 02:12:03
8 Lemoncello, Andrew (GBR) 02:13:40
9 Kifle, Yonas (ERI) 02:14:39
10 Jones, Andi (GBR) 02:16:38

Women's Top Results:

1 Shobukhova, Liliya (RUS) 02:22:00
2 Abitova, Inga (RUS) 02:22:19
3 Mergia, Aselefech (ETH) 02:22:38
4 Bekele, Bezunesh (ETH) 02:23:17
5 Tafa, Askale (ETH) 02:24:39
6 Akaba, Yukiko (JPN) 02:24:55
7 Bai, Xue (CHN) 02:25:18
8 Smith, Kim (NZL) 02:25:21
9 Ozaki, Mari (JPN) 02:25:43
10 Yamauchi, Mara (GBR) 02:26:16

More London 2010 Coverage:
*IAAF Recap of Race
*Women's Photos
*Men's Photos Discussion:
*When Geb is having a bad day, he runs 2:06 and still wins. Wanjiru...
*Boston Deeper Than London


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