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2013 Virgin London Marathon - The Women's Race
by John Elliott
The Women's Race
The London Marathon brings together the best women in the world and 2013 was no exception. In the field were the 2012 Olympics Gold and Silver medalists, the 2011 World Championships Gold and Silver medalists and seven of the top ten finishers from the 2012 London Marathon. London had seen sub-2:20 finishes in 2011/2012 and we were beginning to expect that from the race - with the deepest possible field, could the race deliver on its own impossibly high standards and expectations?
Women's Only Race
The London Marathon is a women's-only race for the Elite women, both to make it record eligible and as a matter of convenience. In 2011, the IAAF issued a ruling that women's records could only be achieved in women's-only race. Many standing records had been set by women being paced by men, and the IAAF decided this was unfair - or perhaps it was simply a nod to the many major events who had already separated their women's race from the main field. In any case, for nearly ten years the largest marathons had started the women early - some would say that was for fairness, but the true reason was for television coverage...in mixed races, men would congregate around the lead women and it was hard for officials, spectators and television to pick out the women in the crowd.
A Small Field at London
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer - |
The Women's Field at London
Starting women early leads to a strange, small race. For the 2013 London Marathon, the starting women's group consisted of just 19 women (and three pacers). By 5K, the field would be down to nine - and these nine would be the real field for the 2013 London Marathon and were from three countries. From Ethiopia: Tiki Gelana, Meselech Melkamu and Atsede Baysa. From Kenya: Priscah Jeptoo, Edna Kiplagat, Florence Kiplagat and Joyce Chepkirui. From Japan: Yukio Akaba and Mai Ito.
Although the field was small, it was arguably the best field ever assembled for a marathon - all quality runners. In that group were three women who had run sub-2:20 (Gelana, F. Kiplagat, E. Kiplagat) and another three who had run sub-2:23 (Jeptoo, Melkamu, Baysa). It would be hard to pick a favorite from this group, but Tiki Gelana had the fastest personal best in the field and had won the Olympic Marathon in 2012, beating many of the others including silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo. The 2012 London Marathon champion, Mary Keitany, was not running in 2013, but the second through fourth finishers in 2012 had all run sub-2:21 on the course and were poised to be successful (times in 2012: E. Kiplagat 2:19:50, Jeptoo 2:20:14, F. Kiplagat 2:20:57).
A Slowish Start + An Accident
The London Marathon has a different set of standards than almost any other race, so when we write that the London Marathon race started slowly, that must be taken in context. The first few miles, led by the pacemakers ticked off as originally planned toward a 2:20 marathon pace. But after 5K, the women stopped following the pacers who were trying to keep the speed. The pacers finally relented and slowed to allow the pack to run with them. By 10K (in 0:34:11), the average pace had slowed to equate to a 2:24 marathon finish - a time more than two minutes faster than the win at the previous week's Boston Marathon, but slower than the 2:20 finishing time that London always seems to want to see for its top finishes.
Through 15K (51:05) and 20K (1:08:13), the pace remained the same at just better than 2:24 marathon pace and the field still held the same nine women. While the pace at that point was not enough to give trouble to these top women, the most significant event of the race took place just after the 15K point: As the women approached their water tables, the lead wheelchairs were reaching the same point. Some wheelers took the side of the road near the water tables and as she turned toward the water table she collided with a wheelchair and went down...hard. Gelana got back up and rejoined the field - seeming to be running well, but everyone would have to wonder whether Gelana would be okay through the finish.
The Race Begins at Halfway
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer - |
Edna Kiplagat Pushes the Pace
After a lackluster half marathon (1:11:49) and with nine women still together, Priscah Jeptoo and Edna Kiplagat chose to push the pace - and after the pack had been running an average pace of 5:29 per mile for the first half of the race, the leaders increased the tempo and put in a string of 5:08 miles and quickly the field was down to just four women, three Kenyans and one Ethiopian: E. Kiplagat, Jeptoo, Florence Kiplagat and Meselech Melkamu. The winner would be one of these women....
Melkamu was the first to fall off the pace. Florence Kiplagat was next to fall back and the race was down to two women: Priscah Jeptoo, the 2012 Olympics Silver Medalist, third finisher at the 2012 London Marathon, and 2011 World Championships Silver Medalist; and Edna Kiplagat, the woman who had finished one place ahead of Jeptoo at the 2012 London Marathon and one place ahead of Jeptoo at the World Championships in 2011. These were two women who were evenly matched and had a good history of competition.
With just the two women together, the women eased a bit through miles 19 and 20 were slightly slower, but at mile 21 Priscah Jeptoo began to push the pace slightly and E. Kiplagat could not respond. Jeptoo would continue to build a lead all the way through the finish, gaining more than a minute lead on Kiplagat over the final five miles.
The Finish/A Slow London = A Great Anything Else
Photo Credit: Victah Sailer - |
Priscah Jeptoo Wins the London Marathon
Priscah Jeptoo won in 2:20:15. After finishing as runner-up to Tiki Gelana at the 2012 Olympics and runner-up to Edna Kiplagat at the 2011 World Championships, Priscah Jeptoo was able to outlast both women to add a major win to her resume. Her winning time, 2:20:15, was nearly identical - one second slower - than her 2012 finish and personal best time that only yielded her the third spot, but the victory was a good one and continues to demonstrate Jeptoo's consistency in world-class races.
Besides Jeptoo, the other women's finishes were below expectation. Edna Kiplagat finished in second place in a decent time of 2:21:32 - but that was nearly two minutes slower than her runner-up time of 2012; perhaps the first half time was just too slow and the pace too uneven between the first and second half for Kiplagat's comfort.
After Kiplagat, the times were just slow for London: Yukiko Akaba moved up to third place in 2:24:43 and the other runners were all slower than 2:25. For comparison, the top eight runners in 2012 were all faster than 2:25 compared to just three in 2013. But perhaps our comments are simply a reflection of the total excellence we expect at London - in fact, the top five women at London were faster than the winner at the prior week's Boston Marathon...A slow London is still the fastest and deepest marathon in the world.
1. Priscah JEPTOO (KEN) 2:20:15 - $55,000 + $50,000
2. Edna KIPLAGAT (KEN) 2:21:32 - $30,000 + $50,000
3. Yukiko AKABA (JPN) 2:24:43 - $22,500 + $10,000
4. Atsede BAYSA (ETH) 2:25:14 - $15,000 + $5,000
5. Meselech MELKAMU (ETH) 2:25:46 - $10,000 + $5,000
6. Florence KIPLAGAT (KEN) 2:27:05 - $7,500 + $1,000
7. Mai ITO (JPN) 2:28:37 - $5,000
8. Alevtina BIKTIMIROVA (RUS) 2:30:02 - $4,000
9. Susan PARTRIDGE (GBR) 2:30:46 - $3,000
10. Irvette VAN ZYL (RSA) 2:31:26 - $2,000
11. Adriana DA SILVA (BRA) 2:31:44 - $1,500
12. Remi NAKAZATO (JPN) 2:33:24 - $1,000
13. Amy WHITEHEAD (GBR) 2:34:14
14. Chika HORIE (JPN) 2:35:30
15. Joyce CHEPKIRUI (KEN) 2:35:54