FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2008 Women's Race Report
LONDON - (April 13, 2008) - Irina Mikitenko sprung a shock to win the
women's Flora London Marathon in only her second race at the distance,
beating the much-fancied Ethiopian pair of Gete Wami and Berhane Adere and
lowering her personal best by 37 seconds.
After starting in calm, cool sunshine, Mikitenko battled through the wind
and rain in the closing stages to become the first German winner in London
since Katrin Dorre took the third of her trio of titles in 1994. Leading
for much of the race, the 35-year-old shrugged off the challenge of Wami,
the World Marathon Majors champion, and Russia's Svetlana Zakharova over
the last three miles to cross the line in 2:24:14.
The 37-year-old Zakharova finished second for the third time in 2:24:39 in
her first London Marathon for four years, while Wami overcame a dramatic
fall at 30km to finish third in 2:25:37.
"I was in such good shape I knew I could do it," said the former
Kazakhstani, who ran an aggressive race from the start. "I am so happy to
win my first marathon and I know I have much more to show at this
Zakharova, competing in only her second race since giving birth for the
first time just over a year ago, was rewarded at the finish with a phone
call from the Russian federation confirming her selection for the Olympic
"This is the start of a new career after two years off," she said. "I am
very happy to know I have a place at the Olympics after my performance
Wami, who defeated Mikitenko in Berlin last September, had to be satisfied
with third after her second place last year. "I have never fallen before,"
she said. "If I hadn't fallen I would have run much better. I am
disappointed but pleased that I recovered to finish third."
Despite the perfect conditions (11°C and flat calm) the first mile was
exceptionally slow, 6:14, but it was no surprise that Constantina Dita led
them out in the early stages. Wearing white gloves, the tall Romanian
adopted her usual position at the fore of the large group, with Mikitenko,
Souad Ait Salem of Algeria and another Romanian Adriana Pirtea alongside
The pace picked up through the downhill third mile with the British pair
Liz Yelling and Hayley Haining at the front followed by all the main
contenders. A group of a dozen passed 5km in 17:36, before Mikitenko joined
Dita at the front with Wami and Adere sheltered in the pack.
The fluctuating pace settled down as they passed 10km in 34:49, before
Mikitenko took it on at the front and began to stretch the field with the
tiny figure of Kenya's Everline Kimwei pattering along behind her.
They clicked through 10 miles in 55:29 with Mikitenko and Kimwei, on her
debut, shadowed by more experienced Africans including Wami, Adere and
Kenya's Salina Kosgei, as well as the veteran Europeans – Dita, Zakharova
and Ludmila Petrova.
Mikitenko and Dita led a pack of nine over the River Thames by Tower
Bridge, just as news came through of a gas leak on the Highway. But any
danger was averted s as the athletes were directed out of danger to the far
side of the carriageway for a couple of hundred metres.
Shortly afterwards Wami, wearing long white socks, made the first move of
the day as the runners strode through Wapping. Shadowed by Adere and Ait
Salem, and matched by the ever-present Mikitenko, she struck out for the
Docklands running 5:13 for mile 14, the second quickest of the race.
It looked significant, but misfortune was waiting just around the corner
for Wami. Just as the runners approached the 30km drinks station near
Canary Wharf, Ait Salem fell in front of Wami and the Ethiopian's face,
hands and knee struck the tarmac. She lost 100 metres, about 30 seconds on
the leaders, as Petrova, Mikitenko, Adere, Kosgei and Zakharova pushed on.
"When I got up the first thing I did was check my teeth," she said later.
"It felt as if they had fallen out."
Her recovery was anything but toothless, however. Slowly she made up the
ground and joined the leading five as the runners turned east and headed
back towards the centre of London. Now the race was on and Wami,
remarkably, began to push the pace.
Kosgei dropped off the back and both Adere and Petrova started to struggle.
Zakharova, defying her 37 years, stuck to Mikitenko and Wami as they passed
35km together in around 2:00:26. These three were clear and the medallists
Now they faced the long push for home with a breeze in their faces. As the
rain began to fall Mikitenko put in yet another effort. Running 5:13 for
mile 24, equalling second quickest of the race, she finally got away,
leaving Zakharova and the bruised and battered Wami in her wake.
Zakharova did her best to make up the gap, but Mikitenko was too strong.
With the Thames on her left she grimmaced through the rain, visibly buoyed
by her growing lead as she strode through Parliament Square, up Birdcage
Walk and past Buckingham Palace to The Mall.
She sprinted to the line like the former track runner she is. "I had so
much energy left at the end," she said. "I knew I could run much faster in
the last 5km because at the beginning we were so slow."
What effect the fall had on Wami's chances we can only leave to
speculation, although she was clearly in pain as she limped across the
When Mikitenko finished second behind Wami in Berlin her husband had told
her to slow down. This time she ran her own focused race, not even aware of
Wami's fall until the end.
"I always felt that I could do it," she said. "But I didn't realise I was
alone until 40km. That's when I knew."
Kosgei was fourth for the second year in a row, with Petrova fifth, while
Ait Salem recovered from her fall well enough to beat Adere in a sprint for
Yelling, who had run alone for most of the second half, finished ninth in
2:28:44, a personal best by exactly two minutes and, more importantly, a
ticket to China in Britain's Olympic team. Haining also broke her PB in
12th, clocking 2:29:18.