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‘My goodness!’ – Kenya’s Jepchirchir wins London Marathon

By Sam Drury
BBC Sport

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir stormed to victory in a women’s only world-record time of two hours 16 minutes and 16 seconds in the London Marathon.

World record holder Tigst Assefa, Megertu Alemu, also of Ethiopia, and Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei also beat the previous women’s only record of 2:17:01, set by Mary Keitany in 2017.

Kenya’s Alexander Mutiso Munyao held off distance-running great Kenenisa Bekele to win the men’s race in 2:04:01.

The British duo of Emile Cairess and Mahamed Mahamed finished third and fourth.

Cairess’ time of 2:06:46 makes him the second-fastest British man of all-time over the distance and the first to finish on the podium since Sir Mo Farah in 2018.

Both Cairess and Mahamed are now set to go to this summer’s Olympics after finishing well under the qualifying time of 2:08:10.

It was double success for Switzerland in the wheelchair races as Marcel Hug and Catherine Debrunner sealed comfortable victories.

Hug, who has now won four successive London Marathons, finished 31 seconds ahead of USA’s Daniel Romanchuk, with Great Britain’s David Weir third.

Debrunner led for a time and finished more than six minutes clear of compatriot Manuela Schar to win her second London Marathon.

‘I didn’t expect it to be me’

The field for the women’s race was considered one of the best ever assembled with three of the four fastest women in history competing.

They were on track for women’s only record – a record for a marathon run on a course without any male athletes in the race – throughout with the leading pack immediately putting distance between themselves and the rest of the field.

When the lead group began to thin it was Jepchirchir, Assefa, Jepkosgei and Alemu left standing.

They stayed together until Jepchirchir kicked for home in the last few hundred metres and the 30-year-old Kenyan was able to see off Assefa to win in London for the first time.

“I am feeling grateful. I am so happy for the victory. I was not expecting to run a world record – I knew it might be beat but I did not expect it to be me,” Jepchirchir told BBC Sport.

“I knew the history and the ladies were strong. I was working extra hard. My time was lower but I’ve come good today and set a PB.

“I am so happy to qualify for the Olympics and I feel grateful. I’m happy to be at Paris and my prayer is to be there and run well to defend my title. I know it won’t be easy but I’ll try my best.”

Women’s elite race results

1. Peres Jepchirchir (Ken) – 2:16:16

2. Tigst Assefa (Eth) – 2:16:23

3. Joyciline Jepkosgei (Ken) – 2:16:24

4. Mergutu Alemu (Eth) – 2:16:34

‘I kicked and knew I would win’

Tributes were paid to 2023 winner Kelvin Kiptum before the men’s race. Kenya’s world record holder died in a road accident in his home country at the age of 24 in February.

That the race ended with another Kenyan winner was fitting but Munyao, 27, was pushed hard by the 41-year-old Bekele for much of the race.

Bekele is a three-time Olympic gold medallist with five world titles to his name but has never won the London Marathon.

The Ethiopian looked well placed to claim an improbable maiden win but Munyao upped the pace in the closing stages and powered clear to clinch his first win in London.

“At 40km I got some pressure from Bekele but I had a lot of confidence because I trained for this race,” Munyao told BBC Sport.

“After 40km I thought I had enough energy to win. That’s why I kicked and I knew I would win.”

Asked about Kiptum, he added: “I think about him and let him rest in peace. He came here in London and he won. Let him rest in peace.”

Men’s elite race results

1. Alexander Mutiso Munyao (Ken) – 2:04:01

2. Kenenisa Bekele (Eth) – 2:04:15

3. Emile Cairess (GB) – 2:06:46

4. Mahamed Mahamed (GB) – 2:07:05

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