The 39th Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday (28 April) elevated endurance running to unprecedented levels as world record holder Eliud Kipchoge was pushed to the second fastest time ever by the fastest runners-up in marathon history. Sir Mo Farah was fifth and two more British athletes excelled with top ten places and World Championships qualifications.
We are truly privileged to be witnessing the golden age of marathon running. More than 414,000 applied for a place in VMLM and there were 42,750 starters. Head and shoulders above them all was the peerless Kenyan, Eliud Kipchoge, who led five pretenders to his crown through halfway in 1:01:37. Kipchoge was chasing a record fourth men's London title.
At this stage, Sir Mo Farah was drifting just off the back of the pack and it was not long before Kipchoge had whittled his challengers down to two: Ethiopia's Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun. Geremew stuck to the leader like glue and the pair were on Victoria Embankment before any significant daylight appeared.
One final effort was needed and Kipchoge was the one with the extra gear as he powered to victory in a course record 2:02:37. Geremew (2:02:55 PB) and Wasihun (2:03:16 PB) were rewarded with new world best times for second and third places in a marathon. Last year's runner-up, Tola Kitata (2:05:01) was next, ahead of Farah (Newham & Essex Beagles, 2:05:39).
Callum Hawkins (10th, 2:08:14 PB) ran a brilliant race to become Britain's third fastest behind Farah and the former world record holder, Steve Jones (2:07:13). This was redemption for the Kilbarchan athlete, who famously collapsed when comfortably leading the Commonwealth Games Marathon in Australia last year. Also inside the top-20 finishers were Dewi Griffiths (16th, 2:11:46) and Jonathan Mellor (19th, 2:13:25).
The women's race was run in complete contrast to the blistering pace of the men's. The start was held in cool and overcast conditions but there was no obvious reason for the pacemakers to disappear out of sight as the pack shuffled along, apparently disinterested in the pace.
Australia's Sinead Diver led through halfway (1:11:22) before the race favourites took charge. Defending champion, Vivian Cheruiyot, appeared to hold the aces until fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei put the hammer down. Kosgei broke the usual rules for success by ignoring drink stations as she unleashed the fastest ever second half in a marathon (1:06:42) to win (2:18:20 PB) by almost two minutes from Cheriuyot (2:20:14) and Ethiopia's Roza Dereje (2:20:51).
Charlotte Purdue (10th, 2:25:38 PB) – now the third fastest Briton behind Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi – ran a superbly even paced race to qualify for the World Championships and Tokyo Olympics and there were encouraging top-20 places for Tish Jones (2:31:00 PB), Lily Partridge (2:31:53); Hayley Carruthers (2:33:59 PB), Tracy Barlow (2:36:26) and Sonia Samuels (2:36:50).
Image courtesy Virgin Money London Marathon media