Kenyans dominate Virgin London Marathon as Hallissey lays claim to last GB Olympic place
Sunday, 22 April 2012
April 22 - The Kenyan Olympic trials passed off well here in the capital today, with Mary Keitany becoming the third fastest woman of all time as she defended her Virgin London title in 2 hours 18min 37sec and Wilson Kipsang , the second fastest man of all time, also securing his London 2012 place with victory in 2:04:44, just four seconds outside the course record set by fellow countryman Emmanuel Mutai last year.
Britain's winner on the day turned out to be Claire Hallissey, who finished with a radiant smile after laying claim to the third Olympic place, alongside the pre-selected Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi, as she finished 11th in 2:27:44, comfortably inside the target time of 2:28:24 set on the course by Jo Pavey, who took the calculated risk of resting for this race and hoping no one would better her effort.
The race must have made uncomfortable watching for Pavey on television back home in Devon, as not one but two Britons took up the gauntlet successfully, with Freya Murray – coached by Britain's former London winner Steve Jones – recording 2:28:10 on her marathon debut and finishing 13th.
Pavey will now re-energise her track career, with the 10,000 metres her most obvious target.
As expected, Kenya dominated the women's race, with world champion Edna Kiplagat finishing second in 2:19:50 and Priscah Jiptoo putting her marker down for the third London 2012 place in a time of 2:20:14, leaving Florence Kiplagat, last year's Berlin winner, adrift in fourth in 2:20:57 and Lucy Kabuu, who ran 2:19:44 in her completed marathon debut in Dubai last year, putting her inside the world's top 10, fifth in 2:23:12.
Keitany explained afterwards that she had decided to make her decisive move after 35 kilometres.
"Up to that point we had been running together, but I was feeling good," she said.
"So I was trying to keep going."
She added that she was delighted to beat the Kenyan and African record, and former world record, of 2:18:47 set by Catherine Ndereba at Chicago in 2001.
"I am happy because I thought today I was going to run 2.:20, or maybe 2:19," Keitany said.
"So when I ran 2:18 I was happy at the end.
"Catherine has had the record for a long time."
But the Kenyan sweep in the men's race was disrupted.
While Kipsang was followed home by three-times London winner Martin Lel, who sprinted home in 2:06:51 to finish a second clear of Ethiopia's Olympic bronze medallist and 2010 London winner Tsegaye Kebede, their double world champion Abel Kirui dropped off the pace in the final stages having led at the 18 mile mark, finishing sixth – albeit the third Kenyan home – in 2:07:56.
There was a hitch too for Kenya's world record holder Patrick Makau, who had to withdraw from the race after 16km with a hamstring problem.
Hallissey, a natural sciences graduate from Cambridge University who has a doctorate in immunology from Bristol, was delighted at the way her preparations in the United States, where she now lives, had paid off.
"Everything seemed to fall into place," she said.
"But I still had doubts right up until almost the finish line.
"It started to hurt a bit, but I knew there was no point in turning up and running a conservative race.
"This was an all or nothing race.
"I knew Freya wasn't far behind me, so it was a case of getting to the line first.
"I've done what I came here to do, so now it's in the hands of the selectors.
"A home Olympics is the chance of a lifetime."
Britain's Scott Overall remains the only home runner qualified to run London 2012 – although the hamstring problem, which called his pacemaking duties to a premature halt after 15km was untimely and unfortunate.
Lee Merrien made a gallant effort to join Overall in the team, but as the camera shots showed the digital clock at the finish moving round to 2:12, the Olympic A qualifying mark, the former Commonwealth Games 1500m runner from Guernsey was nowhere to be seen.
He finished in 2:13.41, a personal best, but tantalisingly short of the required standard.
The grimace on his face in the final stages was not all about physical pain.
There was home disappointment too for Louise Damen, who finished 16th in 2:31:37, and Liz Yelling, who had been hoping to secure a third consecutive Olympic appearance – and one which would have created a happier memory for her than the 2008 Beijing Games, where she was tripped in the race and broke a rib.
Yelling could only manage 26th place in 2:40:08 on the day, although she finished with a broad grin.
Since winning her first London title, Keitany had suffered the relative disappointment of a third place finish in New York, having set off too early.
She did not make the same mistake today, winding the pace up gradually.
After staying comfortably in touch with the lead in the first half of the race, the diminutive athlete produced a second half time of 67:44, bettered only by Radcliffe here when she set the world record of 2:15:25 in 2003 which is still almost three minutes faster than any other woman has since managed.
Kipsang had been leader of the men's race at the halfway point, which he passed in 1:12:12, with Ethiopia's Feyisa Lilesa, the world bronze medallist, in close attendance.
By the 25km mark, Kipsang, Lilesa and Kirui were running together at close to world record pace.
But it was Kipsang – whose winning performance of 2:03:42 in Frankfurt last October was just four seconds off the mark set a month earlier by Makau – who had the most left as first Kirui, and then Lilesa dropped away.
After joking that he had moved up to the pacemakers to set the pace for them, Kipsang explained that he had moved to the front out of impatience.
"Nobody in the group wanted to push the pace," he said.
"That's why I decided to go so that whoever was strong, we could establish that."
The 33-year-old Lel – winner here in 2005, 2007 and 2008 – is adopting a fatalistic attitude to Olympic selection, as he was not on the federation's shortlist of six Kenyan contenders and could only finish 35th in January's Dubai marathon.
"This was a great surprise to me," he said.
"My training was not even halfway, it was only a quarter of my training.
"When I was not on the list though it meant there was no pressure on me.
"I don't know if I will be selected for the Olympics – it is the Federation's decision."
The Moroccan pair of Adil Annani and veteran Jaouad Gharib finished fourth and fifth respectively in 2:07:43 and 2:07:44, while Kirui was followed home by Mutai, who took seventh place in 2:08:01.
Lilesa struggled home tenth in 2:08:20.
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