April 26, 2015
The men’s field at 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon was justifiably hyped as the greatest marathon field ever assembled and the race lived up to the billing as Eliud Kipchoge outsprinted defending champion Wilson Kipsang over the final half mile to win his third consecutive marathon in 2:04:42. Kipsang finished five seconds back in 2:04:47 (his course record of 2:04:29 lives to see another year) while world record holder Dennis Kimetto wound up third in 2:05:50. This was marathoning at its finest.
Kipsang entered the race with the unofficial title of World’s Greatest Marathoner, but after wins in Rotterdam and Chicago last year and London today, that title now passes to Kipchoge, who has averaged 2:04:42 in his five career marathons.
Flash recap and results below. More coming later.
The race started quickly on a cool (high-40s), overcast day in London as a group of 10 men plus two pacemakers covered the downhill first 5k in 14:32 (more sensible than 2013’s 14:26 or last year’s 14:21). From there, the rabbits locked into an honest (though not world-record) pace, hitting between 4:44 and 4:48 from miles 6 through 12. The leaders came through halfway in 62:20 (a bit behind the rabbits’ prescribed pace of 61:45). At that point, the lead group consisted of nine men plus two rabbits: Kipchoge, Kipsang, Kimetto, 2014 runner-up Stanley Biwott, Chicago runner-up Sammy Kitwara, 19-year-old 2014 Dubai champ Tsegaye Mekonnen, 2011 London champ Emmanuel Mutai and Ethiopian Tilahun Regassa. 2011/12 World Marathon Majors champ Geoffrey Mutai was four seconds adrift at the halfway point but wouldn’t last much longer as he quickly lost a lot of ground and dropped out before 25k.
By 30k (1:28:56), the lead group was on 2:05:05 pace and was down to six: the favorites Kipchoge, Kipsang and Kimetto and the outsiders Biwott, Kitwara and Regassa. All six men looked strong and ran comfortably, belying the effort required to sustain such a pace (they covered 25k to 30k in 14:53). The group made it to 35k (21.75 miles) intact when Kipsang started to push. Kitwara could not answer and was dropped after a 4:43 22nd mile. Regassa soon followed.
With four miles to go, the race had set up to give the fans exactly what they wanted: a slugfest between the three titans of the marathon, Kipchoge, Kipsang and Kimetto. Biwott ran alongside them in the pack of four, hoping to pull the upset after he was the last to be dropped by Kipsang a year ago. In the 23rd mile (another 4:43), Kimetto lost contact briefly but before you knew it he was back with the leaders (screen shot on the right) as the quartet of four was still together.
Who would crack first? The answer came as the runners descended into the Blackfriars Underpass a little bit before the mile 24 mile mark.
Four men entered the underpass together but only two would emerge up front on the other side as Kipchoge and Kipsang broke free in the underpass as they ran the 24th mile, which included the hills of the underpass, in 4:41 (the video feed went out during the tunnel so no one was able to see the break: LRC Did you miss the break in the men’s race at the 2015 London Marathon? The mystery behind the one minute of missing tv coverage explained). The group had been together midway through mile 24 but Kipchoge and Kipsang had put 29 seconds on third-place Kimetto by 40k (24.9 miles) as they covered 35k to 40k in a blazing 14:27, or 2:01:56 marathon pace.
Kipchoge was throwing haymakers now, constantly probing but unable to penetrate Kipsang’s defenses. After a 4:33 25th mile — tied for the fastest of the race with the downhill mile 3 — the two were still stride-for-stride. Kipchoge attacked again with just over 800 meters to go and this time he finally succeeded in creating a gap. Sensing victory, Kipchoge hammered the 400 meters from 600 to 200 to go in 63 seconds and after looking back to confirm his lead, celebrated in the final 100 by pointing at the roaring crowd (he ran mile 26 in 4:33). Kipchoge exulted as he crossed the line in 2:04:42, and Kipsang celebrated too as he crossed five seconds later. He knew he had been a part of something special and that it took a truly exceptional effort from a truly exceptional runner to beat him. Kipchoge averaged 4:37 pace from 35k to the finish (just under 4.5 miles), that’s 2:01:00 pace for a full marathon.
We knew going in that a true stud was going to wind up third, and that ended up being Kimetto in 2:05:50. Biwott was fourth and Regassa rounded out the top five in 2:07:16. Mekonnen finished up a DNF.
This was a terrific race, especially over the second half, and those American fans that got up early on a Sunday morning to watch were rewarded with a battle between the very best marathoners in the world, one that came down to the final half mile. It’s hard to ask for much more than that from a race.
Post-race quotes from the BBC broadcast
“The race was good,” Kipchoge said. “I felt very ok. I was happy to run against the two world record holders.
“It was tough. It was a championship [race] out there.”
BBC presenter Gabby Logan then asked about him saying it was a championship race. Kipchoge reiterated the point, saying, “This was [like] a real major championship. It was like an Olympic Games,” noting how two guys were sid-by-side with 500m to go.
Asked about his first London experience he said, “The crowd was wonderful. That is what lifted my spirits to compete at the finish line.”
Kipsang was not disappointed at all with second place saying, “This was one of the best [performances]. Today was a very strong field and I am really happy for my friend to have won today. For me [being] defending champion, having run a good time, 2:04, second place, I think it was really good for me.”
Kipsang said what all of us would agree with, “It was a really tough race and a fantastic one.”
Logan asked Kipchoge and Kipsang if we would see them race at the World Championships in Beijing in August. Kipsang noted what we all know, “In Kenya we are in the hands of the federation. If the federation will select us we will honor the selection.”
Kipsang said, “We would really love to compete at the World Championship again [versus one another].”
LetsRun.com’s analysis, race results, race splits and photos appear below.d
Quick Take #1: This was a truly great marathon
London always attracts such a terrific field that sometimes we end up disappointed when we don’t get an amazing race that equals the quality of the field (even when Kipsang broke the course record last year, our first thought was that the race didn’t live up to the hype — many predicted a 2:03 and/or a world record — despite a fast field and ideal temperatures).
Kipsang’s course record may have survived today, but no one can say that this race failed to deliver. The three guys everyone wanted to see it come down to — Kipchoge, Kipsang and Kimetto — were all still in it with three miles to go. At that point, it was anyone’s race and the drama was off the charts. Kipchoge and Kipsang both produced a magnificent final three miles and the finish came down to the final half-mile. Marathons don’t get much better than this.
Quick Take #2: The rabbits ran sensibly and didn’t get in the way
After the ridiculously-fast first 5ks from 2013 (14:26) and 2014 (14:21), we pleaded in our preview for the rabbits to be more cautious, and they were. The field came through 5k in 14:32, which is still fast but not stupidly fast (the first 5k drops over 100 feet in elevation so a fast time is to be expected). The rabbits came reached halfway in 62:20, and in the end the winner Kipchoge ended up running almost dead-even splits (62:20/62:22). It’s probably better that they were a bit cautious rather than going through at a more aggressive 61:45 (as they were supposed to).
The biggest takeaway: they let the runners decide the race. As we wrote in our preview:
So if any of the London elites — or rabbits — are reading this, please don’t go out way too fast on Sunday. The beauty of running — and especially the London Marathon — is that you get to settle things by getting all the best guys together in the same place at the same time and saying, “Have at it.” When the race is over, we want to be talking about Kimetto, Kipsang and Kipchoge.
That’s exactly what happened.
Now whether rabbits are necessary or not is another question (you could argue a similar race would have played out with or without rabbits) but for now let’s commend pacers Edwin Kipyego and Wilfred Murgor for doing their jobs and not screwing up the race.
Quick Take #3: Eliud Kipchoge has to be the World’s #1 Marathoner
The World’s #1 Marathoner is a title that essentially changes every six months. Half the time, you can’t even definitively crown the World #1 because the top guys don’t all run the same race (London was totally loaded, but we’ll never know exactly how Boston champ Lelisa Desisa would have fared against the London field). But after today, it seems pretty clear Kipchoge — who won Rotterdam (2:05:00) and Chicago (2:04:11) last year and now London (2:04:42), all in fast times — is the World #1. Kipsang seems an easy choice for second (before getting second today, he won London and NYC in ’14 and set the WR in Berlin in ’13) with Kimetto and Desisa #3 and #4 in some order.
Kipchoge is quietly building a resume as one of the most versatile distance runners ever. He already had the PRs (3:50.40 for the mile and 2:04:05 for the marathon), now he’s collecting the scalps:
Eliud Kipchoge 2003: Gold at Worlds 5000m over El Guerrouj and Bekele. 2015: Wins London Marathon over Kipsang and Kimetto.
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) April 26, 2015
Kipchoge is 30 and doesn’t turn 31 until November, so he’s still got time to build on those (extremely impressive) accomplishments.
Quick Take #4: Wilson Kipsang had the right attitude after the race
Kipsang smiled and celebrated as he crossed the line and was quick to congratulate Kipchoge and pose for photos with him after the race. Instead of wallowing in defeat, he realized that his performance today would have been good enough to win pretty much every other marathon in the world and that he simply got beat by a superior athlete in Kipchoge. There’s no shame in that, and Kipsang rightfully held his head high.
Quick Take #5: Has Geoffrey Mutai won his last major marathon?
Mutai was sixth last year in London and New York, which means he’s not done as a marathoner, but when you pair those results with his DNF today, it is going to be difficult for him to win another major marathon (he turns 34 in October). Mutai had a terrific run at the top from 2011 to 2013, as he won four major marathons in that span and set massive course records in Boston (2:03:02) and New York (2:05:05), neither of which appear likely to be broken anytime soon. Mutai certainly would have run better today if he was fully fit during his buildup (he was initially scheduled to run Tokyo in February but withdrew due to injury) but injuries are a part of aging.
You can never totally count out someone as talented as Mutai, but today’s race was more evidence that his best days may be behind him.
It was a rough day for the Mutais in general, as Emmanuel — who ran 2:03:13 in his last marathon in Berlin in September — was just 11th in 2:10:54, his slowest marathon since the 2012 Olympics.
|Top 20 Results
Mile 1: 4:40. 10 men in lead group.
More: Discuss this race in our forum: Official 2015 London Marathon Live Discussion Thread.
Screenshots from the BBC Broadcast appear below. Click for larger image.