London Marathon Recap
Wilson Kipsang confirmed his status as the world number 1 by breaking both the course record and the challenge of a great field to win in 2:04:29. It makes him a two-time London champion, current Berlin and London champion and the course record holder at two of the marathon majors. His win was the result of an incredible surge at 30km, which was reached in a relatively modest 1:29:01, but 5km splits of 14:33 and 14:38 separated him from the rest of the field, apart from Stanley Biwott. A further surge at 40km put paid to Biwott’s challenge, as Kipsang finished in 2:51/km for the final 2km.
The result was a negative split for Kipsang, who covered the first half in 62:30 and the second in 61:59. But really, it was the final 12km that consolidated his ranking as the number one man in the world. Dennis Kimetto, who challenged Kipsang’s freshly set world record in Chicago last year, runs in Boston in a week. For other placings, Biwott hung on for second, going under 2:05, and third, in a solid defence of his title, was Tsegaye Kebede, some two minutes down.
Mo Farah was given a reminder of the enormity of the challenge facing those who step up to the marathon from track, as he faded over the final 10km to miss the British record, eventually finishing in eighth in 2:08:21. In truth, he was never in the race – 30 seconds down at 5km, thanks mostly to Haile Gebrselassie’s disastrous pacing effort that pulled the leaders out way too fast. Farah dropped off, then held the gap to around the 25km mark (he got as close as 40 seconds at halfway), but eventually conceded big time. His splits to the leaders went from around 60 seconds at 25km to the four minutes at the finish.
It is a disappointing debut, but mostly because of the hype surrounding it, and probably signals a delay in Farah’s marathon aspirations for a while. Back to the track for now, I would assume. Having said that, the marathon is a tough event, and the difference between a bad and a good day can be minutes. Just look at some of the names who finished near Farah, and who would themselves say they under-performed today. They’d hope that next time, they’ll run the same pace for 30km and then do what Kipsang did, and it’s certainly not inconceivable. True, they ran different races, going out for the win and then suffering under the early pace (which Farah didn’t do), but the point is that small margins can have big impacts.
What would be most concerning to Farah is that he ran pretty conservatively, and was on 2:06 pace for most of the race, and he still dropped substantially off that. What it all means, I think, is to highlight that Kenenisa Bekele’s 2:05 debut in Paris last week was a really impressive run! For Farah, only time will tell.
On the women’s side, a different race, because the pace was solid up to around halfway, which was hit in 69:15, but then dropped progressively as the pacemakers fell off and the group thinned out. The final three were the two Kiplagats, Edna and Florence, and debutant Tirunesh Dibaba. Priscah Jeptoo, pre-race favorite, rather vanished at around 25km, and word was she dropped out with what I can only assume is an injury, because the pace was good, but not spectacular.
The two Kiplagats found themselves beneficiaries of a 30m lead on Dibaba when the Ethiopian dropped a water bottle at around 30km, and then stopped to retrieve it. Five seconds is all it took, and while she fought bravely, that gap would never close. There was a point where it looked to have grown even larger, but then Dibaba fought and the gap dropped right down, to the point that she ultimately finished only 14 seconds behind the winners.
She’d have had a good view of a sprint finish that began with the right turn in front of Buckingham Palace, and which was won by Edna Kiplagat, by a margin of three seconds from Florence, who’d done must of the front running between 30 and 41km. The winning time of 2:20:21 is good, but not spectacular, and the slowing in the second half illustrated by the half splits of 69:15 and 71:06.
For Dibaba, a debut in 2:20:35 is very good indeed. There will be regrets about that water bottle incident, and what may have been, but she can take heart in the fact that she went out with a fast pace (the projection at 15km was 2:18:04, which would have been easily the fastest debut ever), and hung in well to get the third fastest ever debut performance. Even after being gapped, she held the pace of the two racing Kenyans ahead of her. It suggests more to come, assuming she has the appetite for the volume!
Ultimately, a great day’s racing, and on the men’s side, faster than ever before in London, thanks to Kipsang’s incredible finish. Over to you, Boston…
Below you can find the splits from the race, as well as my thoughts in real-time, as the race unfolded, if you fancy more detail than above and a ‘stream of consciousness’. Forgive slight timing errors – it was all done on the fly!
Men’s race splits
5km – 14:21, projects a 2:01:06
10km – 29:11 (last 5km in 14:50), now projecting 2:03:08
15km – 44:06 (last 5km in 14:55), now projected time has slowed to 2:04:03
20km – 59:19 (last 5km in 15:09!!!), projecting 2:05:00. Interest payments on early pace are steep!
25km – 1:13:58 (last 5km in 14:43), so projecting a 2:04:50. Faster now, see comments below.
30km – 1:29:01 (last 5km in 15:03), projecting 2:05:12.
35km – 1:43:34 (last 5km in 14:33, did the damage!). Projecting 2:04:51
40km -1:58:12 (last 5km in 14:38). Projecting 2:04:41
Finish – 2:04:29. Course record, Wilson Kipsang!
Women’s race splits
5km – 16:45, projects a 2:21:21
10km – 32:47 (16:02 last 5km), projects 2:18:20
15km – 49:05 (16:18 last 5km), projects 2:18:04
20km – 1:05:37 (16:32 last 5km), projecting 2:18:26
Halfway – 1:09:15, projecting a 2:18:30
25km – 1:22:19 (16:42 for the last 5km), projecting 2:18:56
30km – 1:39:10 (16:51 for the last 5km), projection now 2:19:29
35km – 1:56:07 (16:57 for last 5km), projection 2:19:59
40km – 2:13:02 (16:55 for last 5km), projection is 2:20:20
FINISH – 2:20:20 for Edna Kiplagat, only 2s ahead of Florence Kiplagat
Race thoughts & commentary
Wilson Kipsang wins the London Marathon for the second time, and this time gets the course record too! His winning time is 2:04:29. What an astonishing finish. Let’s look at some stats on that:
At halfway, the time was 62:30, which means he did a 61:57 second half. Massive performance.
His 5km splits from the moment he attacked at 30km were 14:33, 14:38 and then a final 2.2km of 6:17, which is 2:50/km (so 14:15 pace for the section). That’s the sequence of surges that gapped the field, then increased the lead, and then dropped the challenge of Stanley Biwott.
Biwott was second, 2:04:56, and Tsegay Kebede gave respectable defence to finish third in 2:06:30.
Mo Farah really battled over the last 15km, and finished eighth in 2:08:20.
Men at 40km
It’s Kipsang to the lead. At 40km, as they passed under the banner, Kipsang put the hammer down and gapped Biwott immediately. Considering they’ve done the last 5km in 14:38 (and 14:33 before that!), the surge is incredible.
Kipsang has all the pedigree of course – a winner here two years ago, the world record holder and he is showing that class now, in a real race. After the very early pace was too fast, it settled, and halfway in 62:30 always foretold of a very aggressive finish. At this race, Kipsang will break the course record with a big negative split!
Men at 35km
Wilson Kipsang and Stanley Biwott are clear! The gap is around 5 s to Geoffrey Mutai. Kipsang is doing all the driving, wonderful performance. Can’t see a repeat of last year where the early aggression was so costly.
The last 5km were run in 14:33, and that explains the damage. The gap to Geoffrey Mutai is 27 seconds, and so he has kept on running the same pace as before – around 15:00/5km, and the two who are clear are the only two from that lead group of 7 with the capacity to increase the pace.
The next question is: Does either Kipsang or Biwott have it in them to increase it again, or do they survive to the finish, a Darwinian-7km experiment?
Mo Farah is now dropping off the pace – he is 2 min behind the leaders, and in fact dropping off British record target, with a projected time of 2:07:30.
It’s a sprint finish, in front of the Palace, and it’s Edna Kiplagat, the world champion, who beats Florence Kiplagat (Half marathon record holder) by only 2 seconds. The winning time 2:20:20 and a fantastic duel.
Tirunesh Dibaba finished third, only 14 seconds down, and that was a gap basically created by her time loss when dropping and then fetching a water bottle. She will regret that, for sure! Still, an incredible debut, the third fastest ever, and a solid transition to the distance for perhaps the greatest track athlete ever.
It’s still Kebede pulling at the front, the rest are content to sit in and wait. The group is now starting to thin slightly, as you might expect. It’s Emmanuel Mutai first off the back, which is a little surprising, because he has been consistently good in London and also did an incredible time in Chicago last October.
However, seven remain, including Kipsang, Biwott, Geoffrey Mutai and a host of others who have shadowed Kebede through a twisty section.
The time is 1:29:01, and the last 5km was in 15:03. That explains why the group has stayed 7-large, because it’s actually not that fast. Kebede is now doing the pace-making job that Gebrselassie was supposed to do!
Farah meanwhile is 64 seconds down, so losing time despite the dropping pace at the front.
Women almost 40km
It’s a two-woman race with the Kiplagats side by side along the Thames. Dibaba is behind, having never been able to make up the gap created by her water bottle drop, and so we have a Kenyan 1-2. In fact, it’s a Kiplagat 1-2.
The question is order. Neither looks particularly strong, though Florence has been slightly more aggressive, more often leading. Nothing to tell in the form however. Could come down to a final 400m in front of the palace.
Men almost 30km
Kebede is the aggressor now – last year he won by staying patient (well, truth is he had a stitch and so was kind of forced to be patient and not respond to the surges), but this year he is in front and pushing the pace. It has done little damage to the group, however, which is nine strong. That tells me they decided quite early on that this was not a day for 2:03s, but rather for racing, and so we can expect a great final 10km. Attritional for sure, but full of surges.
The two Mutais, Geoffrey and Emmanuel, are shadowing him. Geoffrey is an incredible racer, from cross-country up to the marathon and I’ll never forget that New York Marathon win when he attacked in the park. He remains my pick from this situation.
The report is that the last mile was run in 4:30…! Yikes. That is some serious aggression, instigated by Wilson Kipsang. We saw the same last year, it was super aggressive from around 25km to 30km, and brought them under WR pace, and then it all blew apart in the final 10km.
The group is still large – I count ten or eleven, so the damage has not yet been done. Well, it’s been done, it just won’t be apparent for a while. The 25km split will be really interesting!
OK, it’s 1:13:58, so the last 5km in 14:43. Farah is through in 1:14:47, which is 49 seconds down, that’s the damage done by that super-fast mile at the front. The pace is not remarkable – fast, as you’d expect, but there are room for fireworks in the next 10km. All the pacemakers are gone – I hope the Race had some incentives for their pacemakers, because they’d be saving money not paying out for this pacing job…
The halfway split for the front men is 62:30, projecting 2:05:00. Farah is 40-seconds or so behind, and so he has held the gap since the 10km mark. The early pace was way too aggressive, that 14:21 is now being repaid with interest.
What will be interesting to see now is whether the elite guys like Kipsang decide that they’re race it tactically or whether they’ll keep going at the pre-planned intensity. The pace is definitely no longer an option. There is one pacemaker left, so for now, there’s someone to follow, but that won’t be the case for long, and then it will be interesting.
One point I have to make is that the sun is out, and so while the temperature is being reported as around 15 degrees, the addition of sunlight makes it a lot more challenging. The expectation for that 2:04 is not feasible today.
Kipsang to the shoulder of the pacemakers. Here we go, perhaps…
Women 30km updated
Priscah Jeptoo appears to be gone from the lead group in the women’s race but whether she is gone ahead or behind is a great mystery. No indication where – the coverage is absolutely rubbish. The commentary suggests she is off to the front with the pacemakers, but we’re only seeing the chasers. Or are they the leaders? Who knows…
Word is that Jeptoo has abandoned the race. Not sure when or why. The commentators are even less sure – they only figured it out about 5 min after we watched a group of three become two. Great job BBC. And so much for my pick to win!
Gebrselassie is working very hard at the front, and the pace is not really tilting back up again. That’s the interest repayment after the first 5km, perhaps, because the last 5km split was 14:55 despite the effort, and they’re getting slower. The projected pace is now 2:04:03.
Gebrselassie really did mess up the pacing…
Farah, incidentally, covered the same 5km split in 14:50, so he is holding the same pace as the leaders, and the gap is now 44 seconds.
The split is 29:11, and so that’s a big slow down, which means they’re now on 2:03:08 pace. That’s more sensible, but it’s not ideal to run the same overall pace to 10km with a 5km split like that – 14:21 followed by 14:50. There’s a cost to running that speed, even if it is now back on schedule. Still, the earlier you get it back the better, so now they’re on course, and set up to go.
Mo Farah is through 10km in 29:56, which is a big gap. 45 seconds, and it comes with a slowing down by Farah. Of course, he’s still in a position to pick off any ‘failures’ later in the race, which adds a layer of intrigue to the race. The front group, excluding pacemakers, is around 8 men, and that’s large. You’d have to back that one of them will hang on to something around 2:05 or faster. For Mo to catch that, he’d need to speed up, because his projection now is 2:05:53. Point is, if Farah is coming through the field, two things need to happen – he needs to speed up AND they must slow.
There are four in the lead group as halfway is hit in 69:15, which is bang on, but has been done a little erratically – slow then fast now slowing very slightly. But not dramatically and the pace is high, so it’s down to four – Jeptoo, Florence Kiplagat, Dibaba and Edna Kiplagat
Haile Gebrselassie is paying back years of pacing favours by pulling it very very fast. It’s 14:21 for the 5km, which projects a 2:01:06. However, before we get ahead of ourselves, remember that the first 10km in London is often quick. It’s still fast, however, and so the next 5km will be interesting. Kipsang looking around, checking who is there. Geb has even gestured to slow it down. If that doesn’t happen, this will be far from ideal for those lead runners.
One person Kipsang won’t see is Farah. As expected Farah and a few other big names have stayed off that pace, and seem around 25s back at this stage. In fact, just been confirmed, Farah is 27s down, with a 14:48, projecting 2:04:48.
This is very fast indeed.
So I’ve finally figured out that I can filter out all the Mo-junk on the main BBC broadcast, and follow the elite races only.
The women have gone out hard, it’s on course for that 2:18. Recall the split requested at halfway was 69:15 – 69:30, and they are under that right now. So expect it to be quick. All the main protagonists are still there, except for Tiki Gelana, who has dropped off at around 11km. She was taken out by a wheelchair last year, so London has not been a happy hunting ground for her, since that Olympic gold medal.
Men’s race start
While we’re drowning in Mo-mania at the startline, I’ll make my predictions:
1. Geoffrey Mutai – 2:04:15
2. Wilson Kipsang – 2:04:28
3. Tsegaye Kebede – 2:04:42
Mo Farah to feature until 35km, then drop off. The distance will be too great, and the guys at Letsrun are right – when you’ve got a recent 1500m of 3:28, then the marathon represents an extreme, in the opposite direction, that is too large.
But, time will tell…
So the women’s race has begun – you wouldn’t know it because British TV are not showing it. They are doing a 10 min long interview with Mo Farah instead. We are now getting an interview with his old PE teacher. How enthralling. For the sake of the coverage of the race, might be best if he drops out at say, 1km…Kidding.
What races are in propect on both the men’s and women’s side. They feature the world’s greatest marathon runners, and a few debutants worth paying serious attention to, in the form of Mo Farah on the men’s side and Tirunesh Dibaba on the women’s.
Wilson Kipsang and Geoffrey Mutai are the big favorites, but there are perhaps eight men who can realistically win the race in a good day. They include defending champion Tsegaye Kebede (Haile Gebrselassie’s pick, incidentally), Emmanuel Mutai, Stanley Biwott, Stephen Kiprotich, Ayele Abshero, Feyisa Lilesa and of course Farah.
What will be particularly interesting is to see how the race unfolds. The talk is that Gebrselassie will take the front group to halfway in 61:45, with a second group only 30s back in 62:15. Farah will apparently follow the second group. Last year, the early pace was extremely aggressive, and it did huge damage to a field that was on world record pace up to 35km. Ultimately, Kebede survived it best to win, picking off Emmanuel Mutai within the final mile of the race. If the same happens today, then you might again see that second group at halfway producing the winner.
The gap between the groups is small though – 30s at that pace is less than 200m, and the second group would still project 2:04:30, which is an ambitious target for the men in that group (Farah will be joined, apparently, by Jeilan, also making his debut, and Stephen Kiprotich, the World and Olympic Champion).
The caliber of the lead group is such that you’d pick at least one guy to go on, however, and run a very low 2:04. Then again, one might have said that last year too – it had the same runners in it. The difference may come shortly after 30km when the pacemakers perhaps drop out and the jousting begins. Regardless, it will be a fascinating battle.
The women’s race features Priscah Jeptoo, who last year destroyed Dibaba and Defar in the Great North Run, only just missing Paula Radcliffe’s course record in the process. Dibaba and Defar had just come off their Moscow track campaigns, so might be excused for not quite making the step up. This time, Dibaba says she is ready, and prepared specifically for an even bigger challenge.
Jeptoo is not her only challenge, however. There is Olympic champ Tiki Gelana, World Champion Edna Kiplagat and half marathon world record holder Florence Kiplagat. It’s one of the highest quality, most competitive women’s fields ever. Word is the pace to halfway will be 69:15-69:30 with hopes of a negative split. That puts a winning time in the low 2:18 range, and that will produce impressive racing in the second half.
Live splits and analysis coming up
I’m writing this from the Nice Airport, on route to London, and so barring any flight delays, I’ll be able to provide live splits and thoughts as two hopefully epic races unfold. So tune in over the course of the next few hours for updates. The races starts at 9.30am (women) and 10am (men) London time.
Great race in prospect, join me then!
This post is part of the thread: Marathon Analysis – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.