Working Media Area, Tower Hotel, London ( near halfway in London Marathon)
The women's elite race in FLORA London this year featured two women: Irina Mikitenko and Mara Yamauchi...
Early in the women's race, along with the pace setter, the lead pack was Irina MIkitenko, the 2008 London Champion, Zhou Chunxiu of China, the Beijing bronze medalist, Mara Yamauchi, the sixth placer from Beijing, from Great Britian, and Mika Okunaga of Japan.
Catherine Ndereba, the silver medalist from Beijing, was in the second pack from early on.
Mikitenko and Yamauchi hit 5k in 16.34, 10k in 33.14, and 15k in 50.03. At 15k, Okunago dropped off the back. The second pack was fifty seconds back already, with Catherine Ndereba working to get to the front.
Constanina Dita, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, had a bad day from the start and withdrew just after the halfway point with breathing difficulties.
The leaders hit the 20k in 1.07.09, and the halfway point when they hit 1.10.57, when the pace maker left the course. Irina MIkitenko began to push the pace, and Mara Yamauchi, who had recently set a new half marathon personal best, went with her. Zhou Chunxia of China was holding on, as the three hit 25km in 1.24.09. Kate O'Neil of the US was fourteenth in 1.27.45.
The battle between Irina Mikitenko and Mara Yamauchi was relentless. Mikitenko pushed the pace, and increased her average mile pace from 25k to 35k. Just before
35km, a break happened, and first, it was a meter, then two, then ten, then...thirty. By 35 kilometers, Irina Mikitenko was charging, hitting the mark in 1.58.05 and Mara Yamauchi, Great Britain's hope, was nine seconds down.
The second pack, now lead by debut marathoner, Svetlana Zakharova of Russia, the 5,000 meter European record holder, was two minutes, 31 seconds back.
Irina Mikitenko did not stop, hitting 40 km in 2.14.47, with Mara Yamauchi at 2.15.25. Lilya Shobukova was at 2:17.19. Zhou Chunxiu was six minutes back!
Irina Mikitenko of Germany continued to the finish, never relenting, becoming the 2009 champion, and defending her 2008 title at the FLORA London marathon, with a fine time of 2.22.11. Mara Yamauchi of Great Britain brought her game to a higher level with a fine 2.23.12 for second! In third, Lilyia Shobukova of Russia ran 2.24.24. In fourth, Svetlana Zakhaorova of Russia ran 2.25.06. In fifth, Berhane Adere of Ethiopia ran 2.25.30. In sixth, Inga Abitova of Russia ran 2.25.55. Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, the Beijing silver medalist, ran 2.26.22 for seventh. In eighth, Tomo Morimoto of Japan, ran 2.26.29. In ninth, former champion, Geta Wami of Ethiopia ran 2.26.54 and in tenth, Lyudmila Petrova of Russia, who was tenth in 2.27.42.
One final observation from Lilya Shobukhova of Russia, who ran so well in her debut:
"There were two groups and I was leading the second group all the way. I tried hard to catch the leading group, and decided to break up at 40k. It was my first ever marathon and after a half marathon in Philadelphia I knew I could run this distance. I have had a good offer to run the London marathon and I had plenty of time to prepare and now I have this great result."