2013 London Marathon Men’s Race: Marathon Gods 1, Distance Runners 0

Tsegaye Kebede Wins In Race Where Everyone Blows Up After 61:34 First Half

by Robert Johnson, LetsRun.com
April 21, 2013

The results will forever show that the winner of the 2013 Virgin London marathon was Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede. Last year’s Chicago winner got his second straight major title in 2:06:04. It was his second London marathon victory as he also won in London in 2010.

But in reality, this was a victory for the Marathon Gods (or the laws of physiology if you aren’t the religious type) as after a blistering 61:34 opening first half, the race was won by a man who slowed down the least in the second half.

The 2013 London Marathon men’s race was justifiably hyped as arguably the greatest men’s field ever assembled. The course record holders at all five of the long time majors were here, plus the Olympic champ, plus the Dubai record holder. The runners certainly tried to produce a race worthy of the hype early on.

Mind Blowing Opening Splits

Tsegaye Kebede wins 2012 Virgin London Marathon Tsegaye Kebede wins 2012 Virgin London Marathon

The opening splits were mind-blowing. A 4:28 third mile brought them through 5k in 14:26. They hit 10 miles in 46:56. They then split a crazy 14:30 from 20k to 25k  (that’s 2:02:21 marathon pace) and in the midst of that a lead pack of 8 racers hit halfway on world record pace at 61:34.

The ninth place man, Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, was also on world record pace at 61:48 and he’d been dropped.

Article continues below player.

At 30k (1:27:49), the runners were still on 2:03:30 pace and the lead pack was down to four men – two Ethiopians – Dubai course record holder Ayale Abshero, and Chicago runner-up and 2:04:52 man Feyisa Lelisa – and two Kenyans – London course record holder Emmanuel Mutai and 2:05:12 man Stanley Biwott, who was enjoying his 27th birthday today.

However, none of those men would end up winning.

Around the 25k mark, the Marathon Gods seemingly woke up from sleeping in on a Sunday morning and decided to flex their muscles. The ridiculous talk in recent years of a sub-2 hour marathon or some of the talk this week that made a world record seem almost inevitable in London, on a course not historically seen as world record friendly, obviously greatly angered them as they struck with a vengeance.

In hindsight, the race to the finish ended up being a war of attrition. The fast early pace would essentially wipe everyone out. The true winner was the marathon distance, but that wasn’t clear until the very end. There would be quite some drama getting there.

Stanley Biwott pulls away at 1:38 mark of 2012 London Marathon Stanley Biwott pulls away at 1:38 mark of 2013 London Marathon

Biwott’s Bid For Glory
After a 4:52 19th mile and 4:55 for mile 20, it was the least credentialed man who made a move. Biwott, who has twice lost marathons in sprint finishes in his career (Shanghai last year and Reims in 2010), decided he’d better make a move for glory early rather than wait for a sprint finish. He re-injected some pace into the race and dropped down to 4:43 and grabbed the lead as Abshero and Mutai gave chase.

At 35km (1:42:47), Biwott had a six-second lead and was still on 2:03:55 pace.

But in the 23rd mile, he slowed dramatically and was caught by the London course record holder Emmanuel Mutai. The leader to leader split was just 5:06 for that mile. Mutai wasn’t picking it up – Biwott was just cratering. Biwott would end up staggering home and finish 8th in 2:08:39.

Mutai now had the lead. Would he break his own course record of 2:04:40 as at 35k (21.7 miles) he was on 2:04:01 pace? A 5:02 24th mile made it seem like that was going to be tough (as courserecord pace is 4:45 per mile and he’s losing 17 seconds per mile). At 40k (1:58:47), there was no doubt the record was out of the question as he was now only on 2:05:18 pace.

Tsegaye Kebede catches Emmanuel Mutai at 2013 London Marathon Tsegaye Kebede catches Emmanuel Mutai at 2013 London Marathon

Wait a minute? He’s barely moving. Could he possibly lose this thing? The diminutive Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia, who by 30k (18.6 miles) had already been dropped and was just fifth, some 18 seconds arrears of the leading quartet, and at 35k was 49 seconds off the lead, was now in second. He was rapidly gaining but still 28 seconds down at 40km (24.85 miles).

In the end, it wasn’t even close. Kebede caught Mutai at the 2:03 mark. Mutai to his credit ever so briefly tried to respond, but when you are slamming hard into the marathon wall, there really is nothing you can do. Kebede flew by and ended up winning by 29 seconds over Mutai, 2:06:04 to 2:06:33.

From 40k to the finish,  Mutai only could manage a 7:46 (5:41.7 mile pace) whereas Kebede was much better – 6:49 (4:59.9 pace).

Looking back, Kebede just slowed down the least. At 25k, he was with the leaders. Take a look at the 5km splits for Kebede and Mutai after 25k.

Emmanuel Mutai versus Tsegaye Kebede from 25km to 42.2 km
25k to 30k:
30k to 35k
35k to 40k:
40k to 42.2k:
Emmanuel Mutai
Tsegaye Kebede
15:09 (19 second behind)
15:28 (43 seconds behind)
15:39 (28 seconds behind)
6:49 (wins by 29 seconds)

A huge positive split gives Kebede a dominant victory
Tsegaye Kebede ran a first half of 61:34 and a second half of 64:30 and yet he won going away.

Clearly the Marathon Gods were the winners today.

The two Ethiopians in Abshero and Lelisa finished third (2:06:57) and fourth (2:07:46) respectively as Lilesa held off defending champion Wilson Kipsang of Kenya who was fifth (2:07:47) and nearly made up a 50-second deficit on Lilesa at 40k.

The Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich was sixth in 2:08:05.

American Pat Rizzo (2:13:42 pb) was the first non-African born runner in the race as he finished 12th in 2:16:05 after a 66:15 opening half. The top British finisher was Derek Hawkins in 13th in 2:16:50 (2:14:04 pb, 66:27 1st half).

World record holder Patrick Makau was never a factor here. He was near the leaders at 5k, but over 40 seconds back at 10k. He finished in 2:14:10. Updated where Makau explains why happened to him and how he didn’t feel well for part of the race here.

Official top 13 results appear below.

More: MB: Official London marathon thread
LRC Priscah Jeptoo Finishes First in Women’s London Marathon Marred by Wheelchair Collision

Men: Official Results
1. Tsegaye Kebede ETH 2:06:04
2. Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:06:34
3. Ayele Abshero ETH 2:06:57
4. Feyisa Lilesa ETH 2:07:46
5. Wilson Kipsang KEN 2:07:47
6. Stephen Kiprotich UGA 2:08:05
7. Yared Asmerom ERI 2:08:22
8. Stanley Biwott KEN 2:08:39
9. Hafid Chani MAR 2:09:11
10. Ayad Lamdassem ESP 2:09:28
11. Patrick Makau KEN 2:14:10
12. Patrick Rizzo USA 2:16:05
13. Derek Hawkins GBR 2:16:50
14. Anuradha Cooray WRI 2:17:53
15. Phil Wicks GBR 2:19:07

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free LetsRun.com Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards