By Tom Hayward
LONDON - Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge got the better of compatriot and defending champion Wilson Kipsang in a fierce battle over the closing miles to win the London Marathon by five seconds on Sunday with world record holder Dennis Kimetto third.
Labeled the ‘clash of the champions’ by organizers, Sunday’s race pitted eight sub-2:05 runners and five of the all-time top-10 in one of the fastest fields ever assembled.
Kipchoge, a former world champion at 5,000 meters, and Kipsang broke clear in the closing stages after a blistering race but it was the former who finished with a decisive burst of speed to win in 2:04.42.
Kipsang clocked 2:04.47 and fellow Kenyan Kimetto 2:05.50 after he failed to live with the late break of the leading pair.
"It was a tough race. My training paid off and it went to plan,” Kipchoge told reporters. “The crowd were wonderful and lifted me for my sprint finish.”
The narrow, twisting turns of London’s course, compounded by blustery conditions, were not conducive to world record pace and an assault on Kimetto’s 2:02.57 set in September’s Berlin marathon was unlikely.
However, Kipsang's course record of 2:04.29 from 2014 looked far more realistic after a rapid opening 10 miles.
As the race crossed the iconic Tower Bridge the leading group consisted of 10 runners and by the 19-mile mark it was Kipsang, racing against rival Kimetto for the first time over 26 miles, who appeared to up the anti as the leading group was cut to six by the relentless pace.
Kipchoge and Kipsang made their break along the banks of the River Thames and as the pair geared up for a sprint finish it was Kipchoge who opened up a narrow gap in the final kilometer and Kipsang was unable to reel him in.
“I am happy with my second place,” Kipsang said. “The race was good and I don’t mind the cold weather. The crowd kept me going, it’s a wonderful atmosphere as always.”
Earlier, Ethiopia’s Tigist Tufa was the surprise winner of the women’s Marathon after her powerful late break saw her cruise home 18 seconds clear of Kenyan Mary Keitany.
After a tentative race Tufa broke clear in the closing miles and sauntered down the Mall, waving to the crowd, to clock 2:23.22 followed by Keitany (2:23.40) and Ethiopian Tirfi Tsegaye (2:23.41).
(editing by Justin Palmer)