Tufa surprises all but herself at Virgin London, by Alex Mills

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Tigist_TufaFV-London15.jpg
Tigist Tufa, London 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

Tigist Tufa surprised almost everyone at VM London but herself and perhaps David Bedford, the man responsible for the amazing fields year in and year out. Alex Mills, one of our most prolific writers, penned this piece on the London women's victor...

In life, few things are a given. All we can be certain of is that we live, we die, we sleep, we eat, and we get cranky if we don't do either of those things well.


As for running, while by it's very nature almost anything can happen, one thing that goes without saying, is that you can never rule out the Ethiopians. Yet in the week leading up to it's 35th edition, that memo seemed to have bypassed the mail boxes of the race organisers and the majority of the press covering this weekend's London marathon. So as the women's race drew to a close and the leader head toward The Mall, it was obvious that the incoming victor Tigist Tufa was almost certainly not the athlete most had prepared to welcome home first.


So when the start lists were released for the the London Marathon, it's unlikely that her rivals will have felt threatened by her presence within the field. Instead the media focused on the "Fantastic Four"


Yet in a battle of tactics that emerged due a super slow pace being administered, it was Ethiopia's Tufa that overcame the pre-race powerhouses to succeed in becoming only the second Ethiopian ever to take the title. Following in the footsteps of two-time Olympic champion Derartu Tulu, by winning in 2:23.22.


Not only did she get the better of the 'fantastic four' and her compatriot Tirifi Tsegaye, winner of the 2014 Tokyo and Berlin marathons, but she had relinquished some of the demons that had been forced upon her earlier this year.


When she crashed out of the Dubai marathon in January having gone through half-way leading in a 2:18 pace, it seemed as though Tufa was just an exiting yet over-exuberant athlete still lacking in the tactical nous to overcome the marathon.  Yet she showed on Sunday how the experience may in fact have helped as she chose this time to sit and wait before producing an electric final burst that included a brilliant 5:07 lap between miles 23 and 4, to make the surge at the right time on this occasion and from there she had an assailable lead.


As the going got tough and the challenge flipped from trying to run a fast time for victory to ensuring that the athletes focus on timings in order to make the podium, it was Mary Keitany who was the sole Kenyan's representative in the pack, who was showing her fight and repaying the pre-race expectation that had been provided to her. Yet even she would have no response to her Ethiopian rival's late advances. Athlough 2013 champion tried to hang onto the slipstream of her East African rival, and soon she became engrossed in another battle, with another Ethiopian Tirifi Tsegaye for silver.


Even Tsegaye, the two-time major marathon winner, was not on the lists of contenders, even still she dug deep to finish as close as possible to her rival and prove the pundits wrong once more. 


Nonetheless it was her compatriot to whom the day belonged although she has a lot of thanking to give to Anna Dulche Felix who gave the others a real push when things continued to drop in speed. 


So what next for Tufa?


While it could be a difficult selection to make, having won the biggest race of her career, she is going to be in high demand in the years to come and undoubtedly a favourite to gain national selection should she want it. Even if the country she would run for is not yet confirmed, following an unofficial switch to Bahrain, she could ultimately be if in Beijing in August this year.


Even so, whatever the case may be she will continue to battle and fight before then  and maybe one day she will be considered good enough to be within a fantastic four of her own.

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