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London Marathon - The Men's Race
by John Elliott and Sharon Ekstrom
The London Marathon has been the scene of many world records, but in the last decade its finishes had fallen off the list of the top ten. Race directors were eager to get back on that list, and the previous race, 2010, was supposed to be that year - but it did not come to fruition as course record holder Sammy Wanjiru dropped out and Tsegaye Kebede ran through to win. With Sammy Wanjiru withdrawn from the 2011 field, the media pressed the field to make claims of fast times and Kebede stepped up to say he thought he was capable of a world record. But we all know it's not a good idea to jinx oneself?
At the London Marathon, the work is done by the pacesetters and at 10K (29:24), two pacers led ten men toward a 2:06 expected finish. In the group were six men who were in the top ten the year before: Tsegaye Kebede, Emmanuel Mutai, Abel Kirui, Marilson Gomes dos Santos, Abderrahime Bouramdane and Jaouad Gharib. Also in the pack was past champion Martin Lel; and two men who had run sub 2:05 for the marathon: Patrick Makau and James Kwambai. Oddly, also in the front of the group was American Mo Trafeh in his debut marathon, not something this man could maintain.
The halfway point was reached in 1:02:44 with nine men still in the group (Trafeh fell back at mile 12), led by 2 pacers. Through 30K (1:29:21) with one pacer remaining, the pack was unchanged at nine runners, but soon the real race would begin.
Tsegaye Kebede, the defending champion, made the first move - trying to break the pack - and Mutai stepped right up to set the pace. Martin Lel and Abel Kirui tucked in just behind with Gomes dos Santos and Makau in their slipstream - the race was down to those six.
Mutai proved strongest and continued to push the pace until only Martin Lel could go with him. The two pulled away strongly, but a 4:30 (mile 21) and 4:31 (mile 22) pace let Mutai run away alone. Mutai continued to move forward and ultimately gained more than a minute on his closest competitors - winning in a stunning course record time of 2:04:40, thirty seconds faster than Sammy Wanjiru's previous record set in 2009; and more than 1-1/2 minutes faster than his own personal best and breaking his streak of four 2:06 marathons, including three 2:06/fourth place in the previous three London Marathons. More significantly, the finish was the fifth fastest marathon of all time, putting London back on the list of fastest marathons.
Meanwhile Martin Lel continued in second place to be caught by Patrick Makau with 800 yards to go. Lel tucked in behind Makau stalking his compatriot. Both knew there would be a sprint finish and with 200 yards remaining Lel initiated the sprint from behind and the two ran side by side until Makau, on paper the faster man of the two, gave up and Lel gained second place while Makau would be third - both in a time of 2:05:45. Lel, who had been away from the marathon for more than two years and was a late entrant, proved to be nearly as strong as ever - adding to his string of top 2 finishes and running his second fastest marathon ever, not far off his previous course record and best from the 2008 London Marathon.
Further back, Marilson Gomes Dos Santos ran strong to finish in fourth place in 2:06:34, nearly two minutes faster than his previous personal best. Tsegaye Kebede, laboring, finished fifth in 2:07:48.
1. Emmanuel Mutai (KEN) 2:04:40 - $55,000 + $25,000 + $100,000
2. Martin Lel (KEN) 2:05:45 - $30,000 + $75,000
3. Patrick Makau (KEN) 2:05:45 - $22,500 + $75,000
4. Marilson Gomes dos Santos (BRA) 2:06:34 - $15,000 + $50,000
5. Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 2:07:48-$10,000 + $25,000
6. Jaouad Gharib (MAR) 2:08:26 - $7,500 + $15,000
7. Abderrahime Bouramdane (MAR) 2:08:42 - $5,000 + $10,000
8. Dmitry Safronov (RUS) 2:09:35 - $4,000 + $3,000
9. Serod Bat-Ochir (MGL) 2:11:35 - $3,000
10. Mike Shelley (AUS) 2:11:38 - $2,000
11. Viktor Röthlin (SUI) 2:12:43 - $1,500
12. Carlos Corderro (MEX) 2:13:11- $1,000
13. Jason Lehmkule (USA) 2:13:38