By Steven Mills, @trackside2016
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
Jemima Sumgong has been the perennial bridesmaid in Abbott World Marathon Majors races with runner-up finishes in the Boston, New York and Chicago Marathons to her name, and that banner win seemed an improbability with about eight kilometers remaining when she found herself thrown to the ground along with past winners Mary Keitany from Kenya and Aselefech Mergia from Ethiopia. Mergia appeared to clip Sumgong from behind, while Keitany fell separately.
Out of the three fallers, Sumgong seemed to come off the worst as she repeatedly held her head in pursuit of the chasers, but she was the only runner from the triumvirate to regain contact. And once she did, she ran with real intent: after a succession of slower miles in the 5:30-5:40 range, Sumgong assumed the lead and covered the 23rd, 24th and 25th miles in 5:15, 5:13 and 5:16 respectively.
World champion Mare Dibaba initially followed but toiled badly in the closing stages and wound up sixth in 2:24:09 but last year’s surprise winner Tigist Tufa put up a staunch defense of her title in a race which unfolded in a similar manner to last year with a large pack still involved in the latter stages.
Sumgong’s 25th mile of 5:16 drew a small gap over Tufa and while her gap wasn’t decisive, the Ethiopian couldn’t get back onto level terms with Sumgong. Sumgong lost out in the Boston Marathon in 2012 by two seconds and the New York Marathon in 2014 by four seconds but it was the 31-year-old’s day in London as she crossed the finish-line 2:22:58 to Tufa’s 2:23:05.
World half marathon record-holder Florence Kiplagat complained about blisters in the closing stages but notched up another podium finish in third in 2:23:39 while former international race walker Volha Mazuronak from Belarus ran a big negative second half split of 70:35 to claim fourth in a PB of 2:23:54 ahead of Mergia (2:23:57) and Dibaba (2:24:09). Improbably, Mazuronak ran the fastest last 2.195 km of the race: 7:08.
Keitany didn’t arrive in London in her very best shape and looked to be losing touch once or twice before she fell. That fall ultimately put paid to her chances of her third title as she faded back to ninth in 2:28:30.
Two months after dropping out of the American Olympic Marathon Trials, Sara Hall had a much more positive experience at the distance in 12th in a lifetime best of 2:30:06.