It looks as if Mary Keitany did indeed learn a thing or two from her heartbreaking fade in the ING New York City Marathon last year.
In New York, Keitany took off early and ran alone, nearly on world-record pace early in the race and hitting the halfway point in 1:07:56, only to falter in the second half to end up third in 2:23:38.
It was a different story on Sunday at the Virgin London Marathon, where Keitany ran with the pack until the late miles, going through the half in 1:10:53—almost three minutes slower than New York. The result? Keitany was able to speed up in the final miles, pulling away from reigning world champion Edna Kiplagat and world silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo to defend her London title in 2:18:37. She posted a resounding negative split, running the second half of the race in 1:07:44, with a 4:59 24th mile.
In the process, the 30-year-old Keitany became the third-fastest female marathoner in history, behind only Paula Radcliffe and Liliya Shobukhova, and broke the Kenyan national record held for 11 years by the great Catherine Ndereba by 10 seconds.
“I'm so delighted to win for the second time in London,” said Keitany. “We worked together until 35 kilometers and then I felt good so I decided to make a break. I was tired but I knew I could finish strongly. I knew I could run 2:18 but to break Catherine's national record is special for me."
Although the Kenyan athletics federation will not announce its decision until the end of April, Keitany’s victory almost certainly will mean a return to London this summer as a member of Kenya’s 2012 Olympic marathon team—as a likely favorite to win a gold medal. Kiplagat, who won the 2010 ING New York City Marathon on her way to the 2011 world title, finished second in a personal best 2:19:50, and is also an odds-on favorite to be named to the squad. The third spot may come down to Jeptoo, third in London in 2:20:14, a personal best by more than 2 ½ minutes; Florence Kiplagat, fourth in 2:20:57 and the 2011 BMW Berlin Marathon champion; and Sharon Cherop, the 2011 IAAF World Championships bronze medalist who won the heat-soaked Boston Marathon on April 16.
On the men’s side, Wilson Kipsang pulled ahead at 20 miles to win in 2:04:44, more than two minutes ahead of Martin Lel in 2:06:51. To earn that runner-up spot, the 33-year-old Lel, two-time winner of the ING New York City Marathon (2003, 2007), outsprinted Tsegaye Kebede to the line, leaving the Ethiopian third by one second.
With two of the five World Marathon Majors races concluded for 2012, the leaderboard for the 2011-2012 series stands as follows:
1. Mary Keitany , Kenya 60 points
2. Edna Kiplagat, Kenya 50 points
3. Sharon Cherop, Kenya 45 points
4. Liliya Shobukhova, Russia 40 points
5. Firehiwot Dado, Ethiopia 30 points
5 Florence Kiplagat, Kenya 30 points
1. Geoffrey Mutai , Kenya 50 points
2. Wesley Korir, Kenya 40 points
2. Moses Mosop, Kenya 40 points
2. Emmanuel Mutai, Kenya 40 points
5. Patrick Makau , Kenya 35 points
The top five men and women finishers at the B.A.A. Boston, Virgin London, BMW Berlin, Bank of America Chicago, ING New York City, IAAF World Championships, and Olympic Games marathons earn points in a $1 million two-year series to crown the World Marathon Majors champion. The 2011-12 series will conclude at the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 4. The men's and women's WMM champions will each win $500,000.The point breakdown is: 1st place-25, 2nd-15, 3rd-10, 4th-5, and 5th-1.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg