Mary Keitany wins 2012 Virgin London in 2:18.37, by Larry Eder

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Keitany_MaryWide-RAK12.JPGMary Keitany, photo by PhotoRun.net

Mary Keitany, defending her title from 2011, defended her title with amazing new Kenyan and African records, running 2:18.37. What was most shocking is Keitany, known for her impulsive front running, showed the self control of a middle distance runner! Here is how we saw the race:

At the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, Mary Keitany bravely took off early and was on pace to destroy the course record until the last few miles, when she faltered and placed third. Before his race, the word was, that Mark Keitany, an impulsive runner, would just hammer and hope for the best. Au contraire mes amis.....

The 2012 Virgin London Marathon is so many races in one. Right now, we will discuss the women's elite race, namely the Kenyan Olympic Trials for women. In the end, five of the top five were from Kenya, seven of the top ten were from Kenya or Ethiopia.

Keitany_MaryLeds_NYCM11.JPg Mary Keitany, 2011 ING NYCM, photo by PhotoRun.net

The lead pack of ten, Peninah Arusei (Kenya), Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya), Ejegayehu Dibaba (Ethiopia), Lucy Kabuu (Kenya), Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia), Mary Keitany (Kenya), Florence Kiplagat (Kenya), Priscah Jeptoo (Kenya), Edna Kiplagat (Kenya), Irina Mikitenko (Germany), hit the 5k in 16:51. A good pace, but nothing extra ordinary.

With sunny, windy conditions and a cool weather, the pack, while close, was all about who would make the top three Kenyans and top three Ethiopians. Selectors were here. The British top athletes, Claire Hallissey, Fraya Murray and Louise Damen, were running the 5k in 17:09. They were attempting to hit 2:28 or better, to go faster than Jo Pavey's 2:28.34, hoping to be selected for the final position for GBR.

This early in the race, Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat, Florence Kiplagat, Aberu Kebede and Priscah Jeptoo were looking good. The pack hit 10k in 33:36, a nice 2:22 pace. A strong pace, yes, but not a crazy pace. Many were asking, what happened to Mary Keitany, the one who charges away and damn the competition?

Well, Mary Keitany was running to make the Kenyan Olympic team. She was keeping her plans close to her vest, and she was watching all around. Keitany, the London champ and Edna Kiplagat, the World Champ, were running next to each other, with Priscah Jeptoo nearby.

The nature of selection races is that stress goes up and little mistakes wipe one out. 15k was hit in 50:27, by Joyce Chepkirui, Peninah Arusei, Florence Kiplagat, Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo and Mary Keitany, who was floating mid pack.

The British women, lead by Louise Damen, hit the 15k in 52:18, with Fraya Murray, coached by Steve Jones and in her first marathon, and Claire Hallissey, at 52:19. Liz Yelling was back in 53:08.

The halfway was hit in 1:10.53 by the top pack, and Mary Keitany, Florence Kiplagat, Lucy Kabuu and Priscah Jeptoo were all there. Irina Mikitenko of Germany, a former Virgin London champion was about a minute, three seconds back here, running her own race. Speed was deceptive watching the race on the BBC screen. Two hours and twenty-two minute pace is quite deadly, and Irina was running a 2:24-2:25 pace, a strong pace in her own right.

The pace between 20k and 25k was very strong, as Mary Keitany and Florence Kiplagat made sure the pace began to increase, spreading out the field. By 25k, the pack was down to seven people: Keitany, Kebede, Kabuu, Kiplagats (both Florence and Edna), and Baysa. 25k was hit in 1:23.37. Irina Mikitenko was back at 1:25.19 and Jessica Augusto of Portugal in 1:25.38.

The pace was strong, and demanding. 25k to 30k, with the 5k run in 16:17, put the lead pack to five, with Mary Keitany, Florence Kiplagat, Lucy Kebuu, Priscah Jeptoo and Edna Kiplagat all there. Aberu Kebede of Ethiopia was 31 seconds back.

So, the top five were Kenyan and the Olympic Trials team looked to be right up front!

The 5k split between 30k and 35k was a swift 16:08. Mary Keitany hit 35k in 1:56.01, with Edna Kiplagat in 1:56.02, Florence Kiplagat in 1:56.05, along with Priscah Jeptoo. Lucy Kabuu was back at 1:56.26, and Jessica Augusto was sixth in 1:59.58.

Mary Keitany was about to pounce. Could Edna Kiplagat, who had been running next to her, respond?

Mary Keitany, who had run a few 5:08 miles to spice up the race, dropped the proverbial hammer, running mile 19 in five minutes, yes, she broke the race open!

Keitany_Mary1f-Kenya12.jpgMary Keitany, Kenya (February 2012), photo by PhotoRun.net

Mary Keitany ran the 5,000 meters between 35k and 40k in 15:43, the fastest split of the race. She put forty seconds between her and Edna Kiplagat, the 2011 World Champion and 2011 ING New York City champion. Mary Keitany hit 40k in 2:11.46, Edna Kiplagat hit 40k in 2:12.26.

Priscah Jeptoo was third in 2:12.45, Florence Kiplagat hit 40k in 2:13.01, and Lucy Kabuu was back at 2:14.37 with Ethiopia's Aberu Kebede in 2:15.56 (Ethiopia's other hope, Ejebayehu Dibaba, had dropped out between 10 and 11 miles. ).

Watching Mary Keitany fly down the last four miles of the course, after she had held her impulsive running in check for 21 plus miles, was fascinating. David Monte, Race Results Weekly editor said it best, " Mary may be the best women marathon runner in the world,". That is an understatement.

Mary Keitany has shown that, she can run like the wind when she needs to, and also control her spirit when she needs to. Over the last 2.2 kilometers, Mary Keitany showed that her 2:19 last year was not a fluke, as she set a new personal best, Kenyan and African continental record running her fine 2:18.37.

After hitting the finish line, winner Mary Keitany noted, " I am pleased with my run today and the time was OK. The weather here all week has not been good but when I saw the sunshine this morning, I knew the weather would be right for me."

Edna Kiplagat, second place in 2:19.50, told the media, " I just trained to maintain my pace. My plan was to start easy and then pick up the pace. At 30k, I started going faster, so I pulled away from a very strong field. The World Champs was a good preparation."

Priscah Jeptoo, the third placer in 2:20.14 commented: " I started well and enjoyed the race. I have had no plans because it was a very strong field. I did not believe I could medal, so I was surprised to be third."

Kiplagat_Edna1b-Kenya12.jpgEdna Kiplagat, February 2012 (Kenya), photo by PhotoRun.net

Fourth place was Florence Kiplagat, who ran 2:20.57. Lucy Kabuu, in fifth place, ran 2:23.12. Aberu Kebede, the first Ethiopian, ran 2:24.04. Irina Mikitenko of Germany, ran a smart race to finish seventh in 2:24.53. Jessica August of Portugal, who had dropped out in New York, ran 2:24.59 for eighth place, with Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia in ninth, also in 2:24.59. Tenth place was Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia, in 2:27.04.

Next finisher, in eleventh was Claire Hallissey, with a smile for all of England to see, as she ran 2:27.44! Just under the 2:28 that British selectors were looking for! 

In the British women's race, Claire Hallissey took off just before 30k and put some space on Louise Damen and Fraya Murray. Fraya Murray fought back, getting to ten second behind Claire Hallissey who braved most of the last 12-15k by herself. Hallissey built twenty six seconds over Murray, in her debut. Claire Hallissey ran 2:27.01 and Fraya Murray, finishing 13th, ran 2:27.44. Louise Damen, the third runner for GBR in the event, ran 2:31.37, for sixteenth place.

Claire had this to say after her fine pb: " A PB today shows me I am in the right physical and mental shape. The pace was what I expected and It did not frighten me. I think today was the perfect day to run as my time shows."

Today, the story was Mary Keitany, arguably the best women marathoner in the world. Today, the story is the 2012 Virgin London Marathon, where Dave Bedford orchestrated the best women's marathon field on the planet. We shall be fascinated to see how the London elite fare in the 2012 Summer Olympics. With a two loop course that is quite technical, Mary Keitany will have to use those skills honed today to take turn after turn and make her break late enough in the course to break the entire field.



On Friday night, at the elite intro party, Hugh Brasher, the co-race director noted that, David Bedford had informed him, that if anything went wrong on Sunday, it would be Mr. Brasher's decisions. He also welcomed all noting, " Welcome to the world's greatest marathon, sorry about that Mary (noting ING NYC marathon director Mary Wittenberg)".

Congrats, I believe are in order for both Mr. Bedford and Mr. Brasher. And in a small pub in heaven, the late Chris Brasher must be smiling on the race that he and John Dinsley created, as 35,790 marathoners finish their own stories and races today..

Top Ten Women, 2012 Virgin London: 1. Mary Keitany, Kenya, 2.18.37, NR, 2. Edna Kiplagat, Kenya, 2:19.50, 3. Priscah Jeptoo, Kenya, 2:20.14, 4. Florence Kiplagat, Kenya, 2:20.57, 5. Lucy Kabuu, Kenya, 2:20.57, 6. Aberu Kebede, Ethiopia, 2:23.12, 7.Irina Mikintenko, Germany, 2.24.53, 8.Jessica Augusto, Portugal, 2:24.59, 9.Atsede Gaysa, Ethiopia, 2:25.59, 10. Jelena Prokopcuka, Latvia, 2:27.04, 11. Claire Hallissey, GBR, 2:27.44

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