2007 London Marathon - Previous Head-To-Heads
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View: Lel Wins | Zhou Wins | Gebrselassie Drops Out
London Marathon - The Race
by Sharon Ekstrom
The London Marathon has had more world records set on its course than any other marathon in the world and the expectation is that, given the right people and conditions, a new record might always be possible on that course. The 2007 London Marathon had assembled the best men's field in the history of marathoning: the world record-holder, Paul Tergat; the previous world, and current American and London course record-holder, Khalid Khannouchi; the reigning marathon world-champion, Jaoud Gharib; Haile Gebrselassie, the world-record holder in the 10000 and second fastest Half-Marathoner of all time; the 2004 Olympics Marathon Gold medalist and reigning European Marathon champion, Stefano Baldini; the 2004 Olympics Marathon Silver Medalist and American 10000m record-holder, Meb Keflezighi; the top two finishers from the 2006 London Marathon, Felix Limo and Martin Lel; the American record-holder in the Half-Marathon, Ryan Hall in his debut marathon; not to mention many other notables. The women's field had collected the women who accounted for 8 of the top 9 women's marathon finishes in 2006 and the course had produced sub 2:20 women's finishes in four of the previous five years.
Counteracting the depth of the fields and the constant expectation of fast times at London were temperatures that would reach 23 degrees Celsius (74 degrees Fahrenheit) in the day. Like the adverse weather which, the week before, had affected the Boston Marathon - London's partner in the World Marathon Majors - the warmer than ideal temperatures were expected to make it difficult for the athletes to reach their potential.
The Men's Race
With the pre-determined expectation for a fast London Marathon, the field - consisting of sixteen men led by pacers - went out at a 2:07 pace, obviously not shooting for a world or course-record finish, but still ignoring the warm temperatures and shooting for a finish time that had only previously been achieved by six men in the field. Through approximatly the first half of the race, these sixteen men were divided into a strong front pack of 9 runners - Martin Lel, Felix Limo, Jaouad Gharib, Haile Gebrselassie, Khalid Khannouchi, Hendrick Ramaala, Paul Tergat, Abderrahim Goumri and Benson Cherono - followed roughly six seconds behind by a second pack of seven containing Meb Keflezighi, Stefano Baldini, Ryan Hall, Marilson Dos Santos, Juan Carlos De La Ossa and Hicham Chat.
After the Half-Marathon, the weather and pace began to have its effect on the runners. Two runners, Ryan Hall and Marilson Gomes, were able to bridge the gap from the second pack to the first, but most other runners began to have difficulties. Nearly the entirety of the remaining second pack began to fade and drop out - with Baldini, Keflezighi, Chat and De La Ossa all among the casualties. In the front pack, others were having trouble: Benson Cherono fell off the front pack and would eventually finish in eleventh place more than ten minutes back. Khalid Khannouchi was next to falter, falling back off the pack after sixteen miles and eventually dropping out of the race. Haile Gebrsellassie dropped next stopping shortly after the 30K mark and complaining of difficulty breathing. Seldom have we seen this much carnage in a marathon and after this was done, there were only eight of the original sixteen elites standing - Lel, Limo, Goumri, Gharib, Tergat, Ramaala, Hall and Gomes.
Ryan Hall, after joining the lead pack at mile 14 bravely runs to the front of the pack at mile 17 pushing the pacers who were still in the front and taking the lead of the field - an impressive show in his debut marathon. Perhaps nervous at the strength of the debutante, the Africans, led by Gharib put on a surge at mile 24 and Hall and Gomes fall back - out of the competition for the win, but firmly in the top eight.
With 600 meters to go, Gharib smiles and makes a move which loses Tergat and Ramaala. In the last turn down the final 200 meters, Gharib falls off and Limo struggles to hold his position. Lel, having lost to Limo by two seconds at the 2006 London Marathon, wants to win and leads Goumri and Limo. Goumri, who flew under the radar in the months leading up to the London Marathon and whose racing credentials warranted a low elite bib number #20, starts a sprint and nearly passes Lel. But Lel, in an tough head-to-head fight to the finish pulls ahead to win the 2007 London Marathon in 2:07:41. Goumri, in his debut marathon, finishes second in 2:07:44 and Limo finishes third in 2:07:47. Gharib takes fourth place with a 2:07:54 followed by a defeated Ramaala (2:07:56) and a visibly fatigued Tergat (2:08:06). Ryan Hall place seventh with a time of 2:08:24 and achieves the fastest American debut marathon in history and places himself as the second fastest American marathoner of all-time behind only Khalid Khannouchi.
Top Ten Finishers:
Martin Lel (Kenya) 2:07:41
Abderrahim Goumri (Morocco) 2:07:44
Felix Limo (Kenya) 2:07:47
Jaouad Gharib (Morocco) 2:07:54
Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa) 2:07:56
Paul Tergat (Kenya) 2:08:06
Ryan Hall (USA) 2:08:24
Marilson Gomes de Santos (Brazil) 2:08:37
Dan Robinson (Great Britain) 2:14:14
Andi Jones (Great Britain) 2:17:49
The Women's Race
At the start of the race the women blast off - ignoring the high temperatures - and six women stay together through the first 15K in 49:34, on a pace that would have the women finish in under 2:20 - a time that has only been achieved by eight women in history and by only one woman in the current group, Chunxiu Zhou - meaning that the others are likely running beyond their capabilities. The women in the lead pack include Zhou, Lornah Kiplagat, Benita Johnson, Gete Wami, Constantina Tomescu-Dita and Berhane Adere. Mysteriously, absent from our view of the field are three highly regarded women who were scheduled to be running: Lyudmila Petrova, Susan Chepkemei and Galina Bogomolova; the second, third and fifth finishers in the 2006 marathon respectively.
The women continue strong, led by Lornah Kiplagat who, ironically, served as a pacesetter at the London Marathon ten years earlier. In similar fashion to the men's race, most of the women eventually succumb to the heat and the pace. In the lead pack, Benita Johnson was first to falter, leaving the lead group after 15K and eventually finishing seven minutes back. Just after the halfway mark, Tomescu-Dita recognizes that the pace is too quick and drops back to conserve her energy to pass runners later in the race and finish well. Berhane Adere drops back from fourth place after 15 miles and eventually finishes in tenth place nearly twenty minutes back from the winner. Other elites who would drop out include Kyoko Shimahara, Kathy Butler and Blake Russell.
At mile 17 with the pacemakers gone, Kiplagat sets the pace and seems in control of the race, but she is going for a time more than two minutes better than her previous best. Zhou and Wami run behind Kiplagat. At mile 22, more than two hours into the race, it is Kiplagat who runs out of energy and Zhou takes the opportunity to run away from Wami. Zhou runs strong to the finish in 2:20:37 - the first Chinese citizen to win the London Marathon. Wami finishes in second place (2:21:45) over a minute behind Zhou. Tomescu-Dita finishes in third place in 2:23:55 ahead of a strong charging Salina Kosgei who finishes in 2:24:13. Lornah Kiplagat holds on for fifth place in 2:24:46. The British women have a great day with two of their own women finishing in the top ten: Mara Yamaguchi sixth in 2:25:41 and Liz Yelling eighth in 2:30:44.
Top Ten Finishers:
Chunxiu Zhou (China) 2:20:38
Gete Wami (Ethiopia) 2:21:45
Constantina Tomescu Dita (Romania) 2:23:55
Salina Kosgei (Kenya) 2:24:13
Lornah Kiplagat (Netherlands) 2:24:46
Mara Yamaughi (Great Britian) 2:25:41
Benita Johnson (Australia) 2:29:47
Liz Yelling (Great Britian) 2:30:44
Inga Abitova (Russia) 2:34:25
Berhane Adere (Ethiopia) 2:39:11
The 27th London Marathon saw the expectation of fast times which, combined with a warm day, ended in a great number of disappointing DNFs - one of the strangest races we have witnessed. The race also saw the very successful introduction of two debut marathoners Abderrahim Goumri and Ryan Hall - who both presented exceptional marathons. And Chunxiu Zhou, whose past marathons were exclusively in Asia, was introduced to a western audience who were glad to see her. The next London Marathon, set for Sunday April 13th 2008 - will hopefully see a return to cooler weather and faster times, and will undoubtedly have an equally impressive roster including the return of Paula Radcliffe to the women's field.