Crazy 4:22 Opening Mile and 13:48 Opening 5k Can’t Stop Eliud Kipchoge from Winning London Marathon in 2:04:17

April 22, 2018

LONDON – Eliud Kipchoge, Mother Nature, and common sense remained unbeatable at the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon.

Despite running the flat first mile in a ridiculous 4:22 (1:54:30 marathon pace) and downhill first 5k in 13:48 (1:56:27 pace) on a warm day (64 degrees Fahrenheit at women’s start, 71 at men’s finish), Kipchoge managed to hold on and then turn back a strong challenge from Shura Kitata, the 21-year-old Ethiopian who won Rome (2:07:28) and Frankfurt (2:05:50) last year, pulling away in the 24th mile to win in 2:04:17. The 33-year-old Kenyan has now won a remarkable nine straight races at the 26.2-mile distance. Kitata finished second in a minute-plus pb of 2:04:49 (previous pb of 2:05:50) while Mo Farah knocked exactly two minutes off his 2:08:21 pb to finish third in 2:06:21, breaking Steve Jones’ 33-year-old British record of 2:07:13 in the process.

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Race starts crazy fast

At the pre-race technical meeting there had been plans for the first group to go out at 61:00 pace, and a second group at 61:45 pace, but the second group never emerged today and there were nine men (containing all the big names) plus the pacers in the lead pack covering the first 5k in the insanely fast 13:48. Even if you add 18 seconds to that time since the first 5k is roughly 100 feet downhill (and we believe each 10-foot drop in elevation is worth 1.8 seconds) and say they ran it in the equivalent of 14:06, that would still be 1:58:59 pace.

The pack remained together for the next 5k, covered in a more sensible 14:31 (world record pace is 14:41), but they’d never run another 5k under the average WR pace. 14:46 and 14:47 5k segments brought the seven remaining members of the lead pack to halfway point in 1:01:00, the pace Kipchoge had asked for (it was also the fastest-ever first half in a marathon, not counting Breaking2). By halfway, Amsterdam and Honolulu course record holder Lawrence Cherono and Guye Adola, the fatest debutant in history at 2:03:46, had fallen off. Mo Farah was the last guy with the pack at 1:01:03 at halfway.

The fifth 5k was a 14:44 and that was too much for 5,000- and 10,000-meter world record holder Kenenisa Bekele. Soon the lead pack was soon down to Kipchoge, Farah, and Kitata as Bedan Karoki was the last to fall off. Those three would remain in the top three all the way to the finish. Farah cracked just before 30k (14:48 for 6th 5k), where Kipchoge led Kitata, and they were behind world record pace for the first time.

Kipchoge’s push for the finish

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Kipchoge leads Tola Kipchoge leads Kitata

After 30k, the fast opening pace and fatigue really began to take its toll on even the great Kipchoge, as mile 19 was a 4:51, the slowest in the race until that point. Kipchoge still led with Kitata right with him. Mile 20 was 4:45, mile 21 4:56 and mile 22 4:55. Kipchoge slipped to 5:00 for mile 23, but Kitata was just doing his best to stay with the greatest marathoner of all time, as both men were feeling the fatigue.

Kipchoge then began to make a push for home and dropped Kitata in the Blackfriars Underpass. A 4:44 24th mile gave him an 11-second lead on Kitata at 40k, and he would maintain sub-5:00 miles the final two miles to get the win by 32 seconds over Kitata.

Remarkably, the first eight finishers on the men’s side all came from the men’s lead pack that went out in 13:48 — sven of whom who made it to halfway in 61:00-61:03.  The second pack hit halfway in 1:03:56, but slowed down as well with the first finisher from that group being Amanuel Mesel of Eritrea in 2:11:52 in 9th. American Sam Chelanga, who said pre-race he was prepared to go out as fast at 62:30, went out in 64:41 but really struggled in the second half and finished 15th in 2:21:17.

Analysis, interviews, and top results below.

Men’s Elite Field Results

icon even161 KIPCHOGE, Eliud (KEN) 18-39 02:04:17
2 KITATA, Tola Shura (ETH) 18-39 +00:32 02:04:49
3 FARAH, Mo (GBR) 18-39 +02:04 02:06:21
4 KIRUI, Abel (KEN) 18-39 +02:40 02:07:07
5 KAROKI, Bedan (KEN) 18-39 +04:07 02:08:34
6 BEKELE, Kenenisa (ETH) 18-39 +04:26 02:08:53
7 CHERONO, Lawrence (KEN) 18-39 +04:58 02:09:25
8 WANJIRU, Daniel (KEN) 18-39 +06:08 02:10:35
9 MESEL, Amanuel (ERI) 18-39 +07:25 02:11:52
10 GEBREGERGISH, Yohanes (ERI) 18-39 +07:42 02:12:09
11 OLEFIRENKO, Ihor (UKR) 18-39 +10:39 02:15:06
12 SCULLION, Stephen (IRL) 18-39 +11:28 02:15:55
13 CABADA, Fernando (USA) 18-39 +13:12 02:17:39
14 MELLOR, Jonny (GBR) 18-39 +13:28 02:17:55
15 CHELANGA, Samuel (USA) 18-39 +16:50 02:21:17
16 HAMASAKI, Tatsunori (JPN) 18-39 +21:15 02:25:42
17 ADOLA, Guye (ETH) 18-39 +28:08 02:32:35
18 CLOWES, Matthew (GBR) 18-39 +38:49 02:43:16
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Quick Take: Going out in 4:22 for the mile and 13:48 for the first 5k of a marathon is just stupid

Today in London, nine men passed 5k in 13:48 to 13:50. 13:48 is 1:56:26 marathon pace. Heck, it’s 58:13 half marathon pace — 10 seconds under the world record.

Even allowing for the fact that the there is an almost 100-foot drop at the end of the third mile (which should be worth an extra 18 seconds according to LRC guru John Kellogg), 13:48 is way, way too fast. World record pace is 14:41. So ideally the first 5k would be somewhere in the 14:20 to 14:45 range.

We can only hope the first mile split was really off. The first mile in London is slightly net uphill and was run reportedly in 4:22. That’s not even close to 4:39 pace (1:01 pace).

It is inexcusable and infuriating that London, which spends more on its elite fields than any marathon in the world, cannot hire pacemakers who can hit the correct splits. Why bother bringing in such a great field and putting together a world record attempt if you’re not going to pace it correctly?

Talking to some of the athletes, their explanation was that it was easy for everyone to get carried away over the first 5k.

“The first 5k is a bit easy because everybody is fresh,” noted Daniel Wanjiru, who finished 8th.

Kipchoge said that with a group of such talented athletes, it can be difficult to judge the pace.

In addition, there were supposed to be two sets of pacers: one going out at 61:00 pace, and a second going out at 61:45 pace. But that never happened: the two groups essentially merged.

Kenenisa Bekele was one of the athletes who had planned on running in the 61:45 group, but was forced to go with the faster pace.

“It’s not organized,” Bekele said afterward.

Mo Farah said he, like Bekele, had no choice but to go with the leaders.

“My aim was to see who would go with [the 61:00 group] and make a judgment [about which group to run with] from there,” Farah said. “And then when the race went off, boom! It was gone. There was nobody in the second group. There was nobody around. So I looked around and there’s no one there. So I was just like, go with these guys, see what happens. If you’re gonna die, you’re gonna die.”

QT: Eliud Kipchoge does it again

The suicidal early pace had us miffed but let’s not forget the big picture here. Eliud Kipchoge won his ninth straight 26.2-mile effort (8 marathons + Breaking2). That is absurd.

We doubt any human has ever won nine marathons in a row and Kipchoge has now done that with seven of them being majors, including the 2016 Rio Olympics. The previous record for most majors in a row for men since the advent of the Abbott World Marathon Majors in 2006 was just three — achieved by Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Sammy Wanjiru, and Wilson Kipsang.

Did you see what happened in the women’s race when two giants of the sport went out way too fast? One of them came home fifth and one of them dropped out.

Kipchoge holding up like he did today (and to a lesser extent Kitata and Farah as well) was an amazing performance. Lesser mortals would have cratered under the opening pace. Here’s a snapshot of the pace in Kipchoge’s three London wins.

Time 1st half 2nd half 1st 5k
2015 2:04:42 1:02:19 1:02:23 14:32
2016 2:03:05 1:01:24 1:01:41 14:16
2018 2:04:17 1:01:00 1:03:17 13:48

QT: 7 Men Break the Previous World Record For Fastest Half-Marathon Split in a Marathon

Prior to today the fastest half-marathon split in a marathon was the opening 1:01:11 from Berlin in 2016 (when Bekele ran 2:03:03). The second-fastest was Dennis Kimetto’s closing in 1:01:12 when he set the world record.

Seven men (Kipchoge, Kitata, Karoki, Bekele, Daniel Wanjiru, Abel Kirui, and Farah) beat both those splits today and no one came within a minute of the world record.

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QT: Despite a 61:03 opening half and a drinks mixup, Mo Farah impresses with 2:06:21 for third

As noted above, Farah was essentially forced to run 61:03 for his first half if he wanted to mix it up with the leaders, and he deserves credit for doing that, knowing that it carried the risk of an ugly second half.

“There’s no one that I’ve worked with that’s got — I don’t want to say this rudely but — bigger balls than Mo,” said his agent Ricky Simms.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, Farah was dropped at multiple drinks stations, which he said was because he had an identical bottle to another runner’s on the same table. At the 10k drinks station, Farah grabbed the wrong bottle initially and then slowed down to find another one. After that, he tried to get the attention of one of the lead vehicles so that they could let him know which one was his, but he had to stop again at the 20k drinks station, which cost him another five seconds or so.

Farah said he was shocked when he saw the first mile split of 4:22.

“I was looking at it and thinking oh my god,” Farah said. “But then it slowed down after halfway. And then from there you know, you paid the price. You can’t go off that fast and come away with a 2:02.”

Farah said that he had never been in more pain in a race than the final miles today, but was pleased with how he performed.

“That was the most painful, yeah,” Farah said. “But I just managed to hang in there, come away with a personal best. I can’t ask for more than that.”

Farah’s decision to run with the big guns from the front shows that he’s not just treating the marathon as a victory lap after his stellar track career: he’s here to win. And while there’s a gap to bridge between him and Kipchoge (2:04 today), he has several reasons to be encouraged. He went out way faster than ideal in warm conditions and still hung on to run 2:06:21. In perfect conditions, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him break 2:05.

In addition, a fast race from the gun probably isn’t the best way for Farah to win a marathon. His best strategy may be to do what he did on the track: hang with the pack and try to kick away at the end. It will be intriguing to see how Farah does in a championship-style marathon, and if he’s serious about winning a medal in Tokyo, it would make sense for him to run one or two between now and then. If we were him, we’d go to Chicago or New York this fall. Berlin is going to go out super fast, especially if Kipchoge returns to defend his title and chase the world record. If that’s the case. By going to Chicago or NYC, Farah wouldn’t just gain experience in a championship-style race, but he’d also give himself a better chance to win the race.

QT: It’s fitting Steve Jones’ record was broken in a race when Farah went out in 1:01:03

When Steve Jones ran his 2:07:13 in Chicago in 1985, he went out in 1:01:42 and ran the last 24 miles by himself.  It was one of the most impressive runs ever. It was appropriate that Farah broke his record in a race where he went out a bit too fast.
More: Steve Jones 2:07 more impressive than 2:02:57 

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QT: What a run by Tola Shura Kitata

Kitata went off at odds of 50 to 1 to win London. Yet there he was hanging with the world’s greatest marathoner at 23 miles despite a suicidal opening pace.

We were going to perhaps credit Breaking2 with Kipchoge’s ability to survive — to some extent — the crazy opening pace, but Kitata withstood it relatively well as well.

Kipchoge is the world’s greatest marathoner and has experience going out at 60:00 (in a perfect environment), yet Kitata hung with him for most of the race. It’s amazing that only two years ago Kitata was running 2:10 and getting beat in marathons. But he’s only 21 and last year won his last two marathons of the year, in Rome (2:07:28) and 2:05:50 in Frankfurt. His run today was a whole different level. Well done.

QT: Kenenisa Bekele undone by hot early pace and hot weather

Bekele reaffirmed afterward that he was pleased with his preparation, and though he said he felt dehydrated during the race, the fact is that the pace and heat was just too much for him to overcome.

“With [the fast early pace], and the heat, difficult,” Bekele said. “It was a difficult race…Halfway, I feel good, but after halfway, the body started [to feel] very tired.”

Sixth place in 2:08:53 is not a disaster for Bekele, but it’s obviously not great either. We would like to have seen what Bekele would have done if he had been able to go out in 61:45, as he planned. But part of being a successful marathoner is being able to succeed despite the conditions, and even after going out in 61:01, he would have wanted to close faster than 67:52 for the second half. Kenenisa Bekele, marathoner, remains a work in progress.

Splits at the bottom of this piece.

Talk about the race on our fan forum/ messageboard.

Elite results and Mile by mile splits for the leaders appear below.

67, sunny, 68% humidity at men’s start. Winds 10mph out of SSW.
71 degrees at the finish
Mile 1: 4:22
Mile 2: 4:30 (8:52)
Mile 3: 4:23 (13:15)
5K: 13:48   Faster than Breaking2
Mile 4: 4:37 (17:52) Kipchoge has been sticking right on the pacers the whole way. Fearless.
Mile 5: 4:41 (22:33) Still nine guys up there.
Mile 6: 4:42 (27:15)
10K: 28:19 (14:31) Farah grabs the wrong bottle at the 10k drinks station, then throws it away. Then grabs another bottle. Not sure if it’s his or not. Farah doesn’t seem to know where his bottle is and he motions and one of the lead motorcycles to try to let him know where his bottles are.
Mile 7: 4:45 (32:01)
Mile 8: 4:46 (36:46) Still 9 guys up front
Mile 9: 4:45 (41:31)
15K: 43:05 (14:46) 2:01:25 pace.
Mile 10: 4:43 (46:14)
Mile 11: 4:43 (50:57)
Mile 12: 4:50 (55:47)
20K: 57:52 Kipchoge and Kitata right on the rabbits, Karoki , Bekele, Kirui, Wanjiru, and Farah strung out behind.
Mile 13: 4:44
HALF: 61:00 exactly for Kipchoge
Mile 14: 4:42 (65:13) Abel Kirui getting dropped.
Mile 15: 4:46 1:09:59 No pacers now in men’s race and Farah right on Kipchoge’s shoulder up front.
25K: 1:12:36. 2:02:33 pace. Lead group stringing out and it’s Kipchoge, Kitata, and Farah, with a gap of 10 meters to Karoki in fourth.
Mile 16: 4:47 (1:14:46) Kipchoge continuing to push and Farah falling back now.
Mile 17: 4:42 (1:19:28) Kitata in second on Kipchoge’s shoulder. Farah now about 15 meters behind in third.
Mile 18: 4:48 (1:24:16) Kipchoge has dropped Farah and is trying to do the same to Kitata
30K: 1:27:24 It’s Kipchoge pushing with Kitata right behind, Farah 7 seconds down.
Mile 19: 4:51. Slowest mile of the race so far. WR slipping away.
Mile 20: 4:45 Still Kipchoge with Kitata on his shoulder.
Mile 21: 4:56 (1:38:48). WR pretty much gone.
35K: 1:42:33 (15:09) Kitata still right there with Kipchoge. Farah 42 seconds back, still on 2:04:29 pace.
Mile 22: 4:55
Mile 23: 5:00. Still Kitata right on Kipchoge. Kipchoge now getting a few extra strides on Kitata — now getting a gap on him in the Blackfriars underpass.
Mile 24: 4:44 Kipchoge has dropped Kitata.
40K:1:57:35 for Kipchoge, 11-second lead for Kipchoge.
Mile 25: 4:54 (1:58:21)
Mile 26: 4:52 for Kipchoge

Kipchoge wins Kipchoge wins


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