Eliud Kipchoge’s eighth straight marathon victory on Sunday looked similar to all his others in the distance. He managed a fast pace in the early miles, effortlessly whittled down the pack from 20 to 35K, and flashed an inconspicuous smile when the race was at its most difficult. In short, Kipchoge again made the very difficult look sublime.
On Sunday in warm conditions, he ran 2:04:27 to take the third London Marathon title of his career. As expected, the race started quickly. For the first 10 kilometers, the lead pack of nine men (and four rabbits) was on sub two-hour pace. Once the course flattened out, the tempo slowed, but seven men still hit the halfway mark right around 1:01:00, the fastest half-marathon split in history.
Kipchoge was at the front and was joined by Ethiopian’s Shura Kitata and Kenenisa Bekele as well as Bedan Karoki, Daniel Wanjiru, and Abel Kirui of Kenya. It was an eventful beginning to the race for Mo Farah, as he bounced around the lead pack and was involved in discussion with one of the motorbikes after he missed a bottle.
At 25K, all of the pacers were gone and Kipchoge, Kitata, and Farah were left at the front. Bekele, defending champion Wanjiru, and Karoki were unable to keep pace.
The projected finish time was ticking upwards and it became clear that this would not be a day for world records. Kipchoge and Kitata took command at 30K, with Farah now seven seconds back. Though the world record was out of the question, Farah still had the European and British records in his sights.
The last 10K set up as a two-man race between Kipchoge and Kitata, and there were questions about whether Kitata could pull the upset. Kipchoge has had competition late into major marathons before, but could Kitata be the one to end his dominant run?
With 1:52 on the clock, the answer became clear: no.
Kipchoge dropped a 24th mile of 4:44 and left Kitata behind. At the 40K mark, he had an 11-second lead. Farah was slowing but was holding steady in third place, 1:35 behind Kipchoge and 40 seconds ahead of Abel Kirui.
Down the finish straight, Kipchoge flashed his trademark grin. He crossed the line in 2:04:27. Kitata came across in 2:05:00, the best marathon of his career. Farah held on for third in 2:06:32, breaking the British record of 2:07:13 but outside Sondre Moen’s European record of 2:05:48.
Kirui ran 2:07:07 for fourth, Karoki was fifth in 2:08:34, and Bekele struggled to a sixth-place finish in 2:08:53.
Fernando Cabada and Sam Chelanga finished as the top Americans in 13th and 15th place, respectively. Cabada ran 2:17:39, while Chelanga ran 2:21:17 after a halfway split of 1:04:42.