Sifan Hassan defies early difficulties and surges to success in phenomenal first marathon
The rain clouds could not dim a brilliant performance from debutante Sifan Hassan, with the Dutch track star sprinting to victory to steal the show at the 2023 TCS London Marathon.
Hassan looked elated and unstoppable as she charged down The Mall to break the tape in 2:18:33, resetting the Dutch marathon record as she conquered the marathon discipline for the first time.
Already a dominant force in distance running, 30-year-old Hassan is the guardian of multiple world and Olympic titles in every distance from the 1500m to the 10,000m. And yet, despite this bank of accolades, Hassan still felt “scared of the marathon” ahead of the race and curious as to how she’d fare at this daunting new distance.
As it happened, Hassan’s first-ever marathon was indeed filled with many scary moments, with her victory being far from straightforward.
Following the departure of marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei just three minutes into the race – a recent hamstring injury making it impossible for her to continue – the elite women’s pack stayed tight for the first six miles, with Hassan among them.
However, while athletes including the reigning Olympic marathon gold medallist, Peres Jepchirchir, and last year's London Marathon champion, Yalemzerf Yehualaw, moved metronomically at the front, worry surrounded Hassan as she was soon seen holding her hip and stopping to stretch.
In clear discomfort, Hassan started to drop further and further behind her competitors up ahead – but she was not going to let the marathon defeat her.
With nine miles to go, she was making impressive advances on the front pack, and by the 40K point on Embankment, Hassan had successfully re-entered the mix. But some drinks station drama – which saw Hassan dive to other side of the road and narrowly avoid a collision with a motorbike – kept the edge-of-your-seat uncertainty alive.
Now well into the final mile, the lead pack started to disintegrate as it steamrolled along Birdcage Walk, with Yehualaw slipping out of contention as Hassan continued to gain pace and put pressure on Ethiopia’s Alemu Megertu and Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir.
Hassan’s track experience then burst through as she took the lead down the final stretch and powered over the Finish Line first, cementing herself as one of the most versatile distance athletes in history.
“I can’t believe I’ve finished, let alone won,” she said afterwards, in shock. “I can’t believe I’ve finished a marathon. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I’m so stupid to play this kind of game. What was I thinking, running a marathon? I never cry, but this morning I was crying!”
Megertu was runner-up in second place, ploughing through the rainy conditions to achieve a time of 2:18:37. She finished just one second ahead of Jepchirchir, who up until London had remained unbeaten over the marathon distance, having won all five of her 26.2-mile efforts before today.
“It’s my fourth time running in London, and I am very pleased with my result,” said Megertu. “I tried to win in the final kilometre, but I just didn’t have enough left.”
Meanwhile, homegrown star Sam Harrison finished first out of the British field, banking a sizeable six-minute personal best of 2:25:59 to come 11th overall.
Reflecting on her marathon career, Harrison said: “Marathon running is mentally testing. Your mind is telling you that you can’t carry on, but physically you have to keep strong and get to the finish.”
And with such outstanding performances on display in London today, we can safely say that our leading elite women passed the marathon test with flying colours.