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Sisay Lemma (ETH) poses with the Sporting Life Chris Brasher Trophy after winning the Elite Men’s Race at the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon

News

04-10-2021
5

mins

‘A perfect day’ for world’s biggest-ever marathon

Yesterday was a triumph of positivity, togetherness and community spirit. The emotion felt by the runners and spectators is what we’ve all so missed over the last 20 months

Hugh Brasher

Event Director

Touched by spirit of London

That London Marathon spirit touched everyone yesterday, from the participants and spectators to the elite athletes like Jepkosgei – who used the energy of the crowd to win in London on her debut here.

The 27-year-old Kenyan became the seventh-fastest female marathon runner in history when she crossed the line in 2:17:43, having left the two-time champion and world record holder Brigid Kosgei in her wake, along with eight other athletes who had previously run the 26.2-mile distance in under 2:20.

It confirmed the former half marathon world record holder as the latest rising star of the full distance as she finished just 42 seconds outside the women-only world record held by her recently retired compatriot Mary Keitany.

A great achievement

“It was a great achievement for me,” she told the media on Monday morning, still smiling broadly at the memory. “It was not an easy race. There were a lot of strong competitors and I stayed with them until there were only a few kilometres left.

“Then I was on my own. It was hard, but the cheerers around me kept me motivated and got me to the end. I was so happy to get to the Finish Line.”

It was a mark of the exceptional quality of the women’s field that the four who followed her over the line also all finished in under 2:19 – the first time five women have run under 2:19 in a single race.

Jepkosgei’s delight at winning was hard to miss and stayed with her throughout the night: “I didn’t sleep at all, I was so happy,” she said. “This achievement will stay with me forever. It was a great achievement and will last a lifetime.”

The best in the world

There were similar emotions for men’s champion Sisay Lemma, who broke clear over the last two miles of a hard-fought battle to take his first Abbott World Marathon Majors victory after 10 attempts and three podium finishes. After placing third 12 months ago it was a huge breakthrough for the 30-year-old.

“The London Marathon is the best in the world and we were all so happy to be running through London again,” he said. “I was so excited and extra happy to win at the end.

“The London public were extraordinary lining the route. This year was special for me because last year there was no one around us. The crowds this time were even trying to give us water to help us get to the end.”

The London public were extraordinary lining the route. This year was special for me because last year there was no one around us.

Sisay Lemma

Elite men's winner

Lemma clocked 2:04:01 ahead of two other previous sub-2:04 finishers and followed his compatriot and best friend Shura Kitata as the second Ethiopian victor in two years.

Hampered by a hamstring injury, Kitata struggled throughout yesterday’s race and eventually finished sixth, nearly four minutes behind his buddy.

“I was extremely happy for him to win last year and when I won this time, he was happy for me too,” said Lemma. “It’s not just that we are from the same country, we are best friends. Shura even wrote on social media before the race that I would run 2:04:06, so it was very close.”

Superb Swiss performances

There was nothing close about the victories of the two wheelchair champions, however, as Swiss pair Marcel Hug and Manuela Schär both crowned the event’s return to its usual route by setting superb course records.

For Schär, the two-time winner who could only place second on last year’s rain-drenched looped course, it was “perfect” to be back on dry roads in front of the capital’s cheering spectators.

She finished in 1:39:52 to win by more than five minutes and lower her own London record: “It was so great to be back on the old course and to have a crowd there as well,” she said. “It was amazing to get a course record in front of them. That made it an absolutely perfect day for me.

“I was so thankful we could race last year but it was totally different yesterday to be on the old course in dry conditions. It’s always great to be part of a big marathon as it feels like everyone is part of it. You feel part of that community.” 

It’s always great to be part of a big marathon as it feels like everyone is part of it. You feel part of that community

Manuela Schär

Elite women's wheelchair winner

Great to be back

Hug agreed, saying: “I missed it so much during the pandemic, but yesterday the conditions were great. It just feels great to be back doing marathons.”

Like Schär, Hug wheeled alone for much of the race, his power and the speed of his new racing chair proving too much for the rest of the field. Despite swerving around a few London potholes, the double Paralympic champion clocked 1:26:27, three minutes ahead of USA’s 2019 champion Daniel Romanchuk.

“It feels like I’m in the best form of my life. With my new racing chair, it just feels like I am flying,” he said. “Mentally everything is perfect too.”

Perfect seemed to be the overwhelming verdict on an extraordinary day, but in the end, perhaps it was Schär who best summed up the mood of all four London champions:

“Yesterday it was so great to back among the marathon family,” she said. “The vibes we got from the crowds were so good. It feels like we have a piece of normality back.”