In the early stages of the women’s race at the 2018 London Marathon over the weekend, the elite women broke into three distinct groups. At the front, Mary Keitany and Tirunesh Dibaba were joined by four male pacesetters with the stated goal of breaking the women’s world record of 2:15:25. Behind them were Brigid Kosgei and Gladys Cherono, their objective not as ambitious as that of Dibaba and Keitany, but still aiming to run a historically fast time.
In the third pack—with four other women—was Vivian Cheruiyot. The 2016 Olympic 5000m champion opted not to chase the world record. The decision to not run with leaders from the outset eventually paid dividends, as Cheruiyot came from behind to win in 2:18:31, making her the fourth-fastest woman of all time in the distance.
After the first 5K, Cheruiyot’s group was 30 seconds behind Keitany, and at 10K the gap was 1:07. By the halfway mark, Cheruiyot had joined the second pack of Cherono and Kosgei but was 1:40 behind Keitany, who had dropped Dibaba and was running world record pace (1:07:16).
But then the lead started to chip away.
Cheruiyot and Kosgei cut Keitany’s lead down to 1:32 at the 25K mark. The pacesetters who were guiding Keitany through the early miles were now 10 meters in front of her, urging her to speed up. But after a 5K segment of 16:39, it was clear that the world record was out of the question. A bigger concern was whether Keitany could hold on for the victory.
The race changed entirely between 30K and 35K. The record chase began to take its toll on Dibaba and Keitany. Dibaba, still in second at the time, began walking and eventually dropped out of the race. Meanwhile, Keitany slowed dramatically, running a 17:33 5K split.
Cheruiyot moved into second place, just 12 seconds behind Cheruiyot—making up 1:04 from 30K to 35K.
When the inevitable pass came, Keitany was powerless to respond. Cheruiyot moved into first just after 35K and never showed any signs of vulnerability. She ran from 35K to 40K in 16:20, closing the door on any chance that there would be late-race drama.
Cheruiyot’s win is her first World Marathon Major victory and adds to an impressive career that has included five global gold medals on the track.
Kosgei ran 2:20:13 for a second, while Tadelech Bekele of Ethiopia and Cherono ran 2:21:30 and 2:24:10 for third and fourth. Mary Keitany hung in the race and took fifth in 2:24:27. Stephanie Bruce was the top American placing 10th in 2:32:38.