Mary Keitany breaks women's-only marathon world record in third London win

Sunday April 23rd, 2017

Paula Radcliffe’s marathon world records of 2:15:25 (mixed) and 2:17:42 (women’s only) were believed by many to be long shots for the current generation of marathoners to break. Kenya’s Mary Keitany changed that on Sunday morning by running a new women’s-only marathon world record of 2:17:01 as she recorded her third victory at the London Marathon.

The women’s-only record was designated after track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federation, changed the criteria for marathon world records in 2011 so that the women's record had to be set in a women-only race. Radcliffe's 2:15:25 record, set in the 2003 London Marathon while paced by men, was changed to a 'world best' but then after protest and public outcry, it was changed back to 'world record'—but the distinction was made. Even that record appeared to be under threat for most of the race as Keitany found herself ahead of Radcliffe’s record pace through 30 of the 42 kilometers.

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In the pre-race press conference, Keitany announced her assault on the women’s-only world record of 2:17:42 set by Radcliffe in 2005. Keitany stuck to her plan and distanced herself from the other East African elite women by just the third kilometer. She clicked off 5K splits of 15:31, 15:46, 15:58, 16:11, 16:17, 16:22, 16:34 and 16:59 to naturally slow down but still kept the record in her cross hairs.

Other marathoners faltered off the hot pace. With less than a mile remaining in the race, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, suffered stomach cramps and stopped for a few seconds before continuing her race. She finished in 2:17:56 for second place and set a new Ethiopian national record while also becoming just the third woman to break 2:18.

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Heleah Kiprop of Kenya was in position to run under 2:20 but split 67:53 for the first half and then 77:46 for the second half and finished seventh. Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia rounded out the podium with her 2:23:08.

Keitany was already the second-fastest women’s marathoner of all-time. She added to her legacy with the win, joining Radcliffe, Ingrid Kristiansen (Norway) and Katrin Dörre-Heinig (Germany) as the only three-time champions in the race.

AP Photo/Tim Ireland

The men’s race was won by Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru, who made his debut on the major marathon circuit, in 2:05:48. He surged ahead of the rest of the field at the 30 kilometer mark and his lone concern was holding off Ethiopia and track world record holder Kenenisa Bekele.

Wanjiru looked back throughout the closing stages of the race only to see Bekele gaining ground. Bekele boasted the fastest personal best of the field with his 2:03:03 from last September’s Berlin Marathon. He has also been working with a science-focused team to someday break two-hour in the marathon. Wanjiru saved his kick for the 26th mile, where he ran a 4:27 and gave himself enough distance from Bekele to claim the victory by nine seconds.

Last year’s men’s and women’s champions were missing from this year’s race for different reasons. Jemima Sumgong of Kenya won last year’s women’s race and then took gold at the Olympic marathon in Rio de Janeiro. She was set to defend her title in London but tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test. Fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge decided to bypass the spring marathon season to participate in a project designed by Nike to try and break two hours for the marathon with advanced footwear and a specially-designed course on a Formula 1 track in Monza, Italy. That attempt will take place early next month.

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Women’s results

1. Mary Keitany, Kenya 2:17:01

2. Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia 2:17:56

3. Aselefech Mergia, Ethiopia 2:23:08

4. Vivian Cheruiyot, Kenya 2:23:50

5. Lisa Weightman, Australia 2:25:15

6. Laura Thweatt, USA 2:25:38

7. Helah Kiprop, Kenya 2:25:39

8. Tigist Tufa, Ethiopia 2:25:52

9. Florence Kiplagat, Kenya 2:26:25

10. Jessica Trengove, Australia 2:27:01

Men’s results

1. Daniel Wanjiru, Kenya 2:05:48

2. Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia 2:05:57

3. Bedan Karoki, Kenya 2:07:41

4. Abel Kirui, Kenya 2:07:45

5. Alphonce Simbu, Tanzania 2:09:10

6. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, Eritrea 2:09:57

7. Asefa Mengstu, Ethiopia 2:10:04

​8. Amanuel Mesel, Eritrea 2:10:44

9. Javier Guerra, Spain 2:10:55

10. Michael Shelley, Australia 2:11:38

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