Two Thrilling races at the 37th Virgin Money London Marathon, A view from Kenya

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keitany wins.jpgMary Keitany wins, courtesy of London Marathon

wanjiru wins.jpgDaniel Wanjiru wins London! photo courtesy of London Marathon

We asked Justin Lagat to provide us the view from Kenya on the success of Kenyan runners at the 37th Virgin Money London Marathon. Here is the insightful piece that Justin provided.

On Sunday, April 23, 2017, two thrilling races happened at the 37th edition of the London Marathon. Different in the way they unfolded, but both the men and women races kept fans at the edge of their seats. The men's race was an epic duel between two leaders in the last kilometers of the race while the women's was a race against time for Mary Keitany.
elite women, london.jpgThe women's lead pack, London, photo by London Marathon

Even before the start of the races, the start lists and the weather were sure indications of a great race that was to come. The temperatures ranging from 10 to 13 degrees were ideal for good times and the cloud cover ensured that clear images were being broadcasted to fans across the world.

3km into the women's race and Mary Keitany, together with one pace maker, were already beginning to break away from the rest of the women's elite field. "Experts" quickly took to the social media to predict doom for her due to her fast start. But, as the race progressed, it would seem true that experience is the best teacher and that Keitany knew exactly what she was doing better than the self-made experts. Obviously, she has run impressively fast times in her past marathons and definitely knew what she was capable of.

As she crossed the first five kilometers in 15:31, her projected finish time was 2:10! There was no way she was going to maintain that pace. But then again, the London course is known to be faster at the beginning and slower towards the end and it could have been a good idea for her to try and save some minutes for the harder half of the course. She crossed the 10km mark in 31:17, then the 15km mark in 47:15 with the projected finish time being 2:12:55.

At half way and running alone, Keitany crossed the mark in 1:06:54 with the projected time slowing to 2:13:48. Anything could have happened as a result of her fast half. She could slow down considerably and someone would come a pass her, or she could still win the race in a very slow finish time. This was making the race exciting to watch. She was behind the world record pace at 35km, but still well inside the women's only world record and still more than one minute ahead of Tirunesh Dibaba who was in second position at the moment.
gallery_display-tirunesh dibaba.jpgTirunesh Dibaba ran 2:17:56 in her second marathon despite stopping for stomach distress twice in later stages of race! photo by London Marathon

Keitany maintained a strong run and finally crossed the finish line in a new women's only world record of 2:17:01. Tirunesh Dibaba came in second in 2:17:56. It took a while before Aselefech Mergia came third in 2:23:08 followed by Vivian Cheruiyot in 2:23:50.

In the finishing stages of the men's race. The top three positions appeared to have been taken by three Kenyans; Abel Kirui, Daniel Wanjiru and Bedan Karoki. But, Kenenisa Bekele suddenly got some new strength and started gaining slowly on the three leaders, who were in a single file, one at a time.
Wanjiru-1.jpegDaniel Wanjiru wins first World Marathon Majors!

After overtaking Kirui and Karoki, Bekele found it hard to close the gap on the leading Wanjiru as the latter seemed to have sensed what was happening behind him and increased the pace slightly. The last two kilometers were thrilling as Bekele would seem to be closing the gap, then letting it open again slightly as the two athletes fought hard for the win.
gallery_display.jpg
Wanjiru and Bekele, London Marathon, photo courtesy of London Marathon

It was Wanjiru who managed to hold on strongly to his lead and crossed the finish line to win his first major marathon race in 2:05:48. Kenenisa Bekele came second in 2:05:57. Karoki came limping in 2:07:41 to take third as Abel Kirui followed closely in 2:07:45.

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