Keitany cracks world marathon record in London

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Apr 23, 2017
  • Mary Keitany broke the women's world record on Sunday at the London marathon.(Photo by Organisers)

  • Mary Keitany wins the London Marathon.(Photo:Organisers)

Mary Keitany produced one of the greatest ever women’s marathon performances at the 2017 London Marathon on Sunday as she broke the women-only world record to become the second quickest marathon runner of all time.

The 35-year-old ran alone for all-but two of the 26.2 miles, powering clear of the greatest field ever assembled and smashing the 30km world record en route to a dominant victory in 2:17:01.

Only Paula Radcliffe has ever run quicker, when she set the mixed-race world record in 2003, but the Briton was forced to watch from the commentary booth as her women-only mark of 2:17:42 was erased from the history books by the brave Kenyan who claimed a third London Marathon title to go with her three New York crowns.

In an incredible display of front-running, she swept through halfway with her pacemaker in 66:54 and passed 30km in 1:36:05, before holding head and body together in the final miles as Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba chased her down.

“We had planned to run 2:18 so it was a great day for me to run so fast,” said Keitany. “I thought I would run 2:17:59 or something, so to run 2:17:01 is amazing.

“My body felt fit enough and I have trained well so I tried to push all the time. I’m very happy with the finish time.”

Well she might be, for her record-breaking win is worth a cool quarter of a million dollars in prize money to the 35-year-old mother of two.

Behind her, Dibaba clocked 2:17:56 to become the third quickest woman in history and claim the Ethiopian record, while her compatriot Aselefech Mergia was third in 2:23:08.

“I never expected Mary to sprint away so fast at the beginning and maintain it,” said Dibaba. “I followed my own pace and am happy to have a personal best, but I would have preferred to come first.”

Fine weather  

Keitany set her sights on the record earlier this week, saying that fine weather would put Radcliffe’s 12-year-old figures in sight.

She couldn’t have asked for better conditions and set off on a cool spring morning with intent to take full advantage, speeding away from the pack within the first two miles behind pacemaker Caroline Kipkirui.

A one-woman show

An eight-strong elite group stretched out behind, made up of three other Kenyans – Chicago champion Florence Kiplagat, world silver medallist Helah Kiprop and debutante Vivian Cheruiyot – plus five Ethiopians, the 2015 champion, Tigist Tufa, alongside Dibaba, Mergia, the triple Berlin Marathon champion, Aberu Kebede, and Tirunesh’s namesake, Mare, the current world champion and Olympic bronze medallist.

With such a collection of talent, a classic race was almost most inevitable but few expected it to be a one-woman show. The pre-race aim was to reach half way in around 69:00 with Radcliffe’s record the 26.2-mile target, but it was soon clear that Keitany had other matters in mind.

Back in 2005, Radcliffe was already alone by the time she clicked off the first 5km in 15:47, and it was a similar story for Keitany, who passed the two-mile marker just behnd the pacer in 10:14, already up on the Briton’s pace.

By the time she reached 5K in 15:31 the rest were 50 metres adrift – not surprising as Keitany was on for a 2:11 finish. Cheruiyot led the chasing pack, some 10 seconds back, while Tufa had already slipped off the back.

No holding back

Keitany has a history of going off too fast and paying for it later, but this time there was no holding back. She reached 10K just before the Cutty Sark in 31:17 with Cheruiyot, Dibaba, Kiplagat, Kiprop and Mergia in the chasing group.

Kipkirui took her through Deptford and Rotherhithe, passing 15K in 47:15 and 10 miles in 50:45, having run three sub-five-minute miles within the first four.

With the sun now breaking through, Keitany tore off her long black arm warmers.

 They reached the 20K marker on Tower Bridge in 63:26 .Kipkirui called it a day soon after, but Keitany ploughed on alone with Kiprop, Dibaba and Mergia a minute back.

Dibaba was now alone in second. Having shrugged off Kiprop, she was on course for a huge personal best but still 70 seconds adrift as the leader ploughed on down The Highway, hitting 35K in 1:52:39.

Race against the clock 

Now the pain began to show on the Kenyan’s face. The only things against her now were the clock and her aching legs. Her 23rd mile was the slowest so far at 5:29. In 2005, Radcliffe had got quicker at the end, but Keitany was hanging on.

Not as much as Dibaba, though, for the Ethiopian began to pay for those quick early miles and slowed to relieve stomach cramps as she emerged from Blackfriars underpass.

Ahead of her Keitany passed 40K in 2:09:38 and raced to the Mall to become only the second woman in history to break 2:18.

At the end of one of the greatest runs in history, the dominant Kenyan dragged out one last effort as she sprinted under the gantry with her arms wide and her grin even wider.

 For Keitany, the triumph was particularly sweet after she had tripped last year in an incident involving eventual winner, Jemima Sumgong, and could only place ninth, her worst ever marathon finish.

Sweet victory after Rio disappointment

After being left out of her nation’s Rio Olympic team, won by the now-suspended Sumgong, Keitany has surely made her point.

“I want to thank today’s pacemaker for taking me to 14 miles,” she said. “We ran a crazy pace at the beginning and when I saw it was 66 minutes at halfway I thought it was too fast." 

“But I knew if someone was following me I could still push. I was tired but with each mile I could see I was holding the lead ok. In the end I was really happy to finish as the winner.”

Dibaba rallied at the end too, and finished just 55 seconds behind to make this the first time in history that two women have broken 2:18 in the same race.