6 Thoughts on 2024 London Marathon: Mutiso Wins, Jepchirchir Is Clutch, & Brilliant Brits

Peres Jepchirchir is back and showed her chances of back-to-back Olympic golds are very real

Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir showed she is not going to let her Olympic gold medal go without a fight as she won the 2024 TCS London Marathon on Sunday, outsprinting women’s world record holder Tigst Assefa of Ethipia to set a women’s-only world record of 2:16:16. Kenya’s Alexander Mutiso, who had finished 3rd and 2nd in Valencia the last two years, won the men’s race in 2:04:01 as 41-year-old Kenenisa Bekele set a masters world record of 2:04:15 after leading through 24 miles.

The women’s race was the deepest in history on paper, boasting nine starters with a pb under 2:18, and a group of seven hit halfway in 67:04. But once the female pacers stepped off at that point, the pace began to lag and four women were still together with a mile to go: Jepchirchir, Assefa, 2023 London runner-up Megertu Alemu, and 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei.

The key moment came with 400 meters to go. Assefa, running shoulder-to-shoulder down Birdcage Walk with Jepchirchir, moved to her right and into the path of Jepchirchir as she attempted to get the inside line for the right turn toward Buckingham Palace. A frustrated Jepchirchir pushed Assefa before accelerating to her left, and even though she was running extra distance on the turn, Assefa could not match her speed as Jepchirchir pulled away to win by seven seconds. The top four all broke 2:17 – the most sub-2:17s ever in a single race – and all were also under the previous women’s-only world record of 2:17:01 set by Mary Keitany in this race seven years ago.

The women’s race was still four-wide in the final miles (Jon Super for London Marathon Events)

The men’s race went out quick but not insanely so, with 10 guys passing halfway in 61:29. Bekele, seeking his first London win and first Olympic marathon berth, was the one who made the race happen in the second half, and by 35k he had dropped everyone but Mutiso (also known as Alexander Munyao). Bekele and Mutiso were together as late as 24 miles, at which point both men were utterly spent. The final miles along the Thames and into St. James’s Park were a survival test, and though Mutiso ran the final 2.195km from 40k to the finish in just 6:52 (5:02 mile pace, or 2:11:59 marathon pace), it was enough to separate from Bekele, who split 7:00 for the same segment (5:07/mile pace, or 2:14:33 marathon pace).

Aside from Mutiso and Bekele, the rest of the 10-man lead pack at halfway either ran enormous positive splits or dropped out during the second half as Emile Cairess, who was only 13th at halfway after going out in 62:50, moved up for 3rd in 2:06:46 to become the first Brit on the podium in London since Mo Farah in 2018. Fellow Brit Mahamed Mahamed also ran a big pb to finish 4th in 2:07:05, unlocking an Olympic spot for himself in the process.

Bekele’s time was his fastest in six London appearances and matched his best finish of 2nd, which he also achieved in 2017. And after missing the Ethiopian Olympic marathon team in 2016 and 2021, Bekele, who turns 42 in June, has a serious chance at being on the team in Paris this summer. We break down his chances in a separate article here.

Six quick thoughts from the action in London on Sunday.

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1) Peres Jepchirchir is back and will be a force to be reckoned with in Paris

Jepchirchir exulted upon crossing the line first (Bob Martin for London Marathon Events)

No woman has ever won two Olympic marathon titles. But with her performance today in London, Peres Jepchirchir should have the opportunity in Paris this summer. It is hard to imagine Athletics Kenya will leave the defending champion off the Olympic team, particularly when she is coming off a personal best victory over one of the greatest marathon fields ever assembled.

Entering London, Jepchirchir could have gone either way. There were reasons to be optimistic (she had never finished lower than 3rd in eight career marathons, she had won the World Half title in October) and reasons to doubt her (she had to pull out of the NYC Marathon in November and was only 7th at the RAK Half in February). On Sunday, Jepchirchir showed once again that she comes through when it matters.

Jepchirchir put herself in legendary company with the win as she joined Ingrid Kristiansen, Margaret Okayo, and Edna Kiplagat as the only women to win New York, Boston, and London. Jepchirchir is the only one of that quartet who has also won an Olympic gold medal.

Jepchirchir has shown that when she is healthy, she is nearly impossible to beat. She started her marathon career in Kenya, finishing 3rd at 2013 Kisumu Marathon and 3rd at the 2018 Eldoret Marathon. Since then, she has made seven marathon starts and won six of them. Ridiculous.

Peres Jepchirchir’s marathons since 2019

Date Race Result
12/8/19 Saitama 1st, 2:23:50
12/6/20 Valencia 1st, 2:17:16
8/7/21 Olympics 1st, 2:27:20
11/7/21 New York 1st, 2:22:39
4/18/22 Boston 1st, 2:21:01
4/23/23 London 3rd, 2:18:38
4/21/24 London 1st, 2:16:16

Jepchirchir has also shown a knack for winning close races as her winning margins in Boston, New York, and London were a combined 16 seconds. But she is not unbeatable in a kick as she lost a battle in the home straight to Sifan Hassan in London in 2023.

2) Tigst Assefa is mortal (but still very good)

Tigst Assefa was incredible in her last two marathons, winning Berlin in 2:15:37 in 2022 and setting a world record of 2:11:53 in Berlin last fall. But in both of those races, Assefa was so far ahead that all she had to worry about during the second half was following her male pacers rather than racing the rest of the field.

Jon Super for London Marathon Events

London did not have male pacers, which meant Assefa had to make tactical decisions today – try to push the pace and string out the field or let it lag and trust her kick in the final miles. Assefa let it lag (or was too tired to push it) and was not strong enough in the last 400 to hold off Jepchirchir.

“It was a really good competition – wind was a factor,” Assefa told organizers after the race. “At 20K, I felt my leg was hurting a little and wasn’t sure I could finish the race, but I toughed it out.”

There is absolutely no shame in finishing 2nd in 2:16:23 behind someone as good as Jepchirchir, but today showed that the nearly two-minute gap between Assefa’s 2:11:53 pb and every other woman in history is a bit misleading. Either other women are capable of running close to that time with male pacers and perfect conditions, or Assefa is vulnerable in a “slower” race (2:16 is not slow, but it’s definitely slower than 2:11). Assefa actually had to fight for 2nd as she only passed Joyciline Jepkosgei just before the finish line.

Assefa will get a chance to use what she learned today in Paris as her WR in Berlin and 2nd in London will certainly be enough to get her on the Ethiopian Olympic team.

3) Alexander Mutiso wins it and is (probably) on the Kenyan Olympic team

Tony O’Brien for London Marathon Events

Mutiso, who is the 7th-fastest half marathoner in history (57:59), has made a very smooth transition to the marathon. His 2:03:29 debut at 2022 Valencia would have been the fastest debut ever had Kelvin Kiptum not run 2:01:53 in the same race. Since then, Mutiso has continued to thrive, winning 2023 Prague in 2:05:09, finishing 2nd at 2023 Valencia in 2:03:11, and now winning his first World Marathon Major in London.

With the win, Mutiso likely clinched a spot on the Olympic team as well. If we had to guess, the Kenyan men’s team would be as follows:

  • Alexander Mutiso: 1st 2023 Prague (2:05:09), 2nd 2023 Valencia (2:03:11), 1st 2024 London (2:04:01)
  • Benson Kipruto: 3rd 2023 Boston (2:06:06), 2nd 2023 Chicago (2:04:02), 1st 2024 Tokyo (2:02:16)
  • Eliud Kipchoge: 6th 2023 Boston (2:09:23), 1st 2023 Berlin (2:02:42), 10th 2024 Tokyo (2:06:50)

All three men were on Kenya’s provisional squad of five announced on April 4. Mutiso was not on Athletics Kenya’s initial long list of 10 from December but was added to the five-man list in April. Considering his stock could only have risen with his London win, he is likely on the team. Kipruto, who has run the fastest time by a Kenyan in 2023 or 2024 (outside of the late Kelvin Kiptum), has also likely done enough after winning Tokyo in March.

The question is whether Athletics Kenya gives the third spot to Eliud Kipchoge – who was well-beaten in Boston last year and Tokyo this year – or Evans Chebet, who won Boston-NYC-Boston in 2022-23 and was the top Kenyan in Boston (3rd overall) this year. 

We’d expect AK to go with Kipchoge. He is the two-time defending Olympic champ, and he showed in Berlin last fall that he is still among the best in the world, even if he is no longer the overwhelming force he was from 2014-22. And while there is a case to be made for Chebet, Athletics Kenya did not name him to either the 10-man December team or five-man April team. Given that, it seems unlikely that a third-place finish in Boston would be enough to vault him into AK’s top three.

4) It was awesome to see Kenenisa Bekele going for it at age 41

Bekele and Mutiso had broken everyone by 35k (Kieran Cleeves for London Marathon Events)

We have a separate article on Bekele, his run today, and his chances of making the Olympic team, so please read that. But as fans of the sport of running, it was incredible to see Bekele going for it in London today. Though motivation has been an issue at times during Bekele’s marathon career, he showed today that the fire still burns bright, 20 years on from his first Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters in Athens. It was inspiring to see one of the sport’s all-time legends still chasing greatness at the age of 41.

And he came so close to reaching it. Consider that at 35k, Bekele was leading the race and was on 2:03:06 pace. Had Bekele hung on and won in 2:03:06, it would have been one of the most iconic victories of his career and he would 100% be on the Ethiopian Olympic team. Now Bekele, along with the rest of us, will have to wait to learn his fate.

“I was very close,” Bekele told race organizers. “My lower back hurt. I am happy, but a bit disappointed. I put in what I expected at 41. I was a bit injured. I think I have two to three more years of marathons. I don’t think I’ll win London, but I like the city.”

Regardless of whether Bekele makes it to Paris, he showed this morning that, more than two decades into his career, he is still capable of producing thrills. One of the sport’s most popular figures, Bekele spoke before the race about getting the chance to run for his fans one more time in London. None of them should be disappointed by his effort today.

5) The men’s field fell apart over the second half

In the year 2024, a 61:29 first half marathon split is not crazy fast, particularly with pacers on a cool day in London (temps in the low-50s and cloudy). Yet it proved too much for almost everyone in the men’s elite field. Of the 10 men in the lead pack at halfway, half would drop out and the other half would run positive splits.

Men’s leaders at halfway of 2024 London Marathon

Athlete First half Second half Result
Tamirat Tola 61:29 N/A DNF
Alexander Mutiso 61:29 62:30 1st, 2:04:01
Seifu Tura 61:29 94:51 29th, 2:36:20
Kinde Atanaw 61:29 69:34 8th, 2:10:03
Milkesa Mengesha 61:29 N/A DNF
Daniel Mateiko 61:29 N/A DNF
Leul Gebresilase 61:29 N/A DNF
Dawit Wolde 61:30 N/A DNF
Kenenisa Bekele 61:30 62:45 2nd, 2:04:15
Hassan Chahdi 61:30 66:00 5th, 2:07:30

The most painful of all was surely Seifu Tura, who split 61:29 for his first half and 94:51 for his second to run 2:36:20 – one of the largest positive splits we’ve ever seen in an elite marathon. 

There is attrition in any elite marathon, but this was the sort of carnage you’d expect after a 60:00 opening half, not 61:30. Why all the blowups? Our best guess is the wind, which was 10-12 mph out of the north throughout the race (the London course runs slightly south to north) and which many of the elites who did finish cited as a factor.

6) Huge runs from Brits Emile Cairess and Mahamed Mahamed

Cairess is now #2 on the all-time British list (Bob Martin for London Marathon Events)

It was a dream day for the British men in London as Emile Cairess (2:06:46) and Mahamed Mahamed (2:07:05) PR’d by over a minute each to finish 3rd and 4th. Phil Sesemann had already been named to the British Olympic marathon team and it is now a formality that Cairess and Mahamed will join him in Paris as they are the only three Brits with the 2:08:10 Olympic standard.

Cairess’s run was a breakthrough performance, though it did not come as a surprise to him and Cairess is already thinking about running faster.

“It was very windy out there,” Cairess told organizes. “For the first 13k it was feeling very hard. I’m absolutely delighted to be going to the Olympics – it’s a dream come true. I wanted to run a bit quicker today, but the conditions didn’t allow.

“When one of the pacers dropped out, the pace began to struggle and dropped a bit, and I had to decide to leave them, or stay behind.

“Overall it was very gusty, but I managed to sneak into third place. My target next time will be to run faster, but I’m delighted with the qualification [for the 2024 Paris Olympics].”

Cairess ran 2:08:07 in his debut last year in London but told LetsRun at the time that he had been aiming for faster in that race. With another year of marathon training under his belt, Cairess felt more confident coming into London this year and was rewarded with his 2:06:46, which moves him into second on the all-time UK marathon list behind Mo Farah (2:05:11). It also makes him the fastest British-born man in history, surpassing Steve Jones, who ran 2:07:13 way back at the 1985 Chicago Marathon.

Mahamed’s run was not good news for US Olympic Trials 3rd placer Leonard Korir as he did not previously have the Olympic standard, but Korir’s odds of making it to Paris are still very good. After today, the third-ranked American on the Road to Paris list, CJ Albertson (whose spot would go to Korir), is 72nd. The top 80 make it to Paris and the qualification window closes in two weeks (May 5).

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