Long wait ends at London race

Lemma ends Major drought, Jepkosgei claims women's title as 40k runners throng roads

LONDON • Kenya's Joyciline Jepkosgei yesterday won the women's London Marathon as Ethiopia's Sisay Lemma triumphed in the men's race in the first full-scale staging of the event since the coronavirus pandemic.

Compatriot Brigid Kosgei, aiming to become the first woman to win three consecutive London Marathon titles since Germany's Katrin Doerre in 1994, came in fourth.

Jepkosgei won in a personal-best time of 2hr 17min 43sec. Ethiopia's Degitu Azimeraw finished second in 2:17:58 and compatriot Ashete Bekere was third in 2:18:18.

Lemma failed to finish at the Tokyo Olympic Games in August but bounced back to win in the British capital in 2:04:01. Kenya's Vincent Kipchumba was runner-up for the second year running in 2:04:28 and Ethiopia's Mosinet Geremew came third in 2:04:41.

The London Marathon returned to normality for the first time since 2019 after being held without amateur runners or spectators last year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Only a small number of elite runners were allowed to attend last year's event at St James' Park.

But this year, more than 40,000 amateur runners joined the elite athletes in covering the traditional 42.195km course from Blackheath, south-east London, to The Mall that leads to Buckingham Palace.

Another 40,000 runners competed virtually as the race got under way to cheers and applause from returning spectators, with mass participants' start times staggered to avoid large gatherings.

The elite women set a ferocious early pace, completing the first 10 miles (16.1km) in 52min 10sec.

Israel's Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, Kosgei, Jepkosgei, Bekere and Azimeraw formed a breakaway group after halfway.

Reigning New York Marathon champion Jepkosgei broke away after 1hr 55min, establishing an insurmountable lead with a few miles to go, marking the first time five women had completed the London Marathon in under 2hr 19min.

"I'm very excited. A beautiful day for running," she said.

"I'm so happy for the London crowd. Every kilometre, there were people cheering all the way."

The men's pack was touted as arguably the strongest in history despite the absence of four-time London Marathon winner and Tokyo Games gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge.

Six runners in the field held best times of under 2hr 5min, but defending champion Shura Kitata of Ethiopia, who failed to finish the Olympic marathon in Sapporo and entered the race carrying a hamstring injury, faded quickly.

The runners passed halfway in 1:01:25 -12 seconds faster than Kipchoge's split when he set the men's London Marathon record of 2:02.37 in 2019.

A five-strong pack featuring Kipchumba and compatriot Evans Chebet and Ethiopia's Birhanu Legese, Lemma and Geremew broke away as the race progressed.

Having been third at the 2019 Berlin Marathon and last year's Tokyo and London Marathon as well as two other fourth-placed finishes, Lemma finally broke his World Marathon Major duck.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2021, with the headline 'Long wait ends at London race'. Subscribe