Mo Farah comes up short as Eliud Kipchoge wins London marathon
British runner never really had a chance against the impressive Kenyan but took third place
Mo Farah of Britain crosses the finish line to take third place during the Virgin Money London Marathon. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Ouch. Everyone knows it’s not the distance that kills in the marathon, it’s the pace – and that’s what ultimately killed Mo Farah’s chances of winning on the streets of London today.
Farah certainly lasted the distance all right, only not the pace set by the indomitable Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan with the best marathon record in history when it comes to lasting the distance and the pace.
Kipchoge took the win in 2:04:17, outside his own London Marathon course record of 2:03:05, set here two years ago. A thoroughly conquering run nonetheless, the 33 year-old Kenyan now winning 10 of his 11 marathon starts, including the Olympic title in Rio in 2016.
For Farah the pace began to takes its toll as early as 17 miles, even before hitting the proverbial wall, although after plenty of teeth-gritting and checking of the watch, he held on for third place in 2:06:21, briefly stumbling after the line, a highly respectable time and impressive running nonetheless, and well inside Steve Jones’s 33-year-old British record of 2:07:13.
Obviously not quite the same Farah that dominated the track championships for the last seven years, there were however signs Farah can go faster: just before halfway, Farah ran into trouble for the first time, failing to collect the correct bottle at the drinks station, and with that dropped some 20 metres on the leaders.
Farah did close that gap again, but once Kipchoge decisively broke for home around 17 miles there was no holding him back. It was the largely unheralded Tola Kitata, the 21 year-old from Ethiopia, who held on to Kipchoge the longest, finishing second in 2:04:49, a personal best – and thus joining the still exclusive sub-2:05 club.
Farah had also targeted Sondre Nordstad Moen’s European best of 2:05:48, set by the Norwegian runner last year, although that may well come on another day, this being Farah’s first marathon ‘proper’, after a self-proclaimed ‘test run’ in London four years ago, when he finished eighth in 2:08.21
In finishing third Farah looked as tired as he’s ever been, his more laboured than loping, his effort complete. On the road towards Tokyo 2020 it may well prove perfectly paced: “You have to go with the pace in a race like that, so happy with the way I ran, and the time” Farah told BBC afterwards. “It just shows training has being going well, conditions were a little hard today, hot, but I got great support from the crowd, from the people, and thanks to everyone who came out, cheering my name. It was all good.”
Kipchoge however is unquestionably the best men’s marathon runner around right now, this his third title in London – also winning in 2015 and 2016: his record on the road and the track is now second to none, beginning as an 18 year-old when winning the 5,000m at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.
The elite field passed halfway in 61:01 – exactly as scheduled, inside world record pace, and the fastest half-way split in major marathon history. The warm conditions played some part in the drop off in pace afterwards, though Kipchoge never once looked troubled, the man who won last year at Monza race track ran 2:00:25, ruled out for record purposes because of a few little gimmicks but a superhuman effort nonetheless.
There was a fine race run by the top Irish entry Stephen Scullion, who finished 12th overall in a personal best of 2:15:55, the Belfast man also booking his place on the Irish team for the European Championships in Berlin this summer.
In the women’s race, Kenya’s Mary Keitany also set out on world record pace - before suddenly succumbing to the distance and the pace. Instead she was run down by fellow Kenyam Vivian Cheruiyot, four-time World champion on the track, at 34 the reigning Olympic champion over 5,000m, paced herself to perfection, winning in 2:18:31, the fourth fastest in women’s marathon history.
Brigid Kosgei took second 2:20:12, a Kenyan, while finished fairly out on her feet in fifth was Keitany, in 2:24:27. Ouch. Still prving untouchable then is Paula Radcliffe’s world record of 2:15:25, set in London 15 years ago.
It was only Cheruiyot’s third marathon, fourth in London last year 2:23:35, before winning the Frankfurt marathon last October.