Kenya’s newcomer smashes the course record to win the men’s title on his London Marathon debut
Kelvin Kiptum produced a stunning performance to make marathon history in London this morning as the young Kenyan surged away from a field full of champions to smash the course record in only his second attempt at the distance.
Kiptum ran the quickest debut ever when he clocked 2:01:53 in Valencia just five months ago, and came to London as the young pretender, the newcomer among a line-up of more experienced men.
But the 23-year-old pretender became the master on London’s wet roads as he laid down a race for the ages, powering clear over the last 10 kilometres to win by almost three minutes in 2:01:25.
It is not only the second fastest of all time over 26.2 miles, but the first sub-2:02 time on the London course, more than a minute inside Eliud Kipchoge’s 2019 mark and just 16 seconds outside his world record. Six months ago Kiptum had never run a marathon, but now he holds two of the five fastest times ever.
“I’m very happy to run the second fastest time in history,” he said afterwards. “My preparation was good, and I was very happy to race in London. The cheering gave me great motivation.”
It wasn’t just Kiptum’s time that caught the eye, but manner of his victory, for he dominated the race from the start, leading through almost every check point before kicking in an incredible second-half surge timed at 59:45, by far the fastest ever.
At one time even Kipchoge’s world-beating mark was in danger, but Kiptum finally tired in the last couple of miles.
“I thought I could run 2:03, even 2:02,” said Kiptum. “But I didn’t think I’d be close to the world record. Even in the last few miles, I wasn’t thinking about it. Maybe next year.”
Fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor was the best of the rest, the two-time New York City Marathon champion taking second in a personal best of 2:04:23, almost three minutes behind, while Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola was third in 2:04:59, the world champion hampered by the rain.
“I just couldn’t keep pace with Kelvin after he pulled away,” said the resigned Kamworor afterwards.
Nor could anyone else, and no surprise for Kiptum looked supremely confident from the moment four-time champion Kipchoge sent the elite field on its way from Greenwich.
Among the cast of 30 runners were two of the three men who have ever run this distance quicker than 2:02, a first for any race, plus three who have broken 2:03 and six sub-2:04 runners.
But Kiptum seemed undaunted by the talent around him, leading nine men through the speedy early stages and over Tower Bridge to pass halfway in 61:40, a touch outside their target time, but with the course record well in their sights.
It wasn’t going to fall to the great Ethiopian, Kenenisa Bekele, for the fastest man in the field soon began to lose touch, the 40-year-old outrun by his younger rivals. None younger than Kiptum, who slowly began his charge around the Isle of Dogs, picking up speed to reach 30K near Canary Wharf in 1:27:23, a 14:30 5K split that shredded the group.
It was now that Kiptum kicked, pushing so hard that he missed his drink at the feed station. Undeterred, he threw in 4:33 and 4:23 miles to mile 20, leaving the bunch in tatters. He quickly opened a yawning gap on the suddenly strung-out line of chasers, powering on through Rainbow Row and down the Highway with five hard miles in front of him and an empty wet road behind.
Kamworor was now clear in second, but there was no catching Kiptum, whose 5K split to 35K clocked in at a scintillating 13:49. He now had victory in his sights and history in mind as he continued to pound on through the puddles, passing the crowds on along Victoria Embankment and Big Ben to reach the Finish Line in The Mall.
He broke the tape with fingers pointed skywards in triumph, before collapsing to the tarmac in utter exhaustion.
Last year’s runner-up Leul Gebresilase was fourth with Seifu Tura fifth while Emile Cairess was the first Briton home, the 25-year-old living up to his promise with a finely judged debut run that took him past Sir Mo Farah into sixth in 2:08:07 – a time that makes him the second quickest Briton on London’s course.
Farah was third among the domestic athletes, finishing ninth overall in his final London Marathon, just behind Phil Sesemann and a place ahead of his old friend and training partner Chris Thompson.
“I’m very proud to have run in London,” said Farah. “This is where I grew up. It was a great crowd, and if it wasn’t for them, I would have dropped out. It was a big deal.”
“It was a privilege to share the road with a British legend,” said Cairess.
It was a privilege to watch Kiptum, too, as London’s marathon newcomer announced himself as the man of the future.