London Marathon shock defeat for world-record holder Kipchoge

4 October 2020, 14:34

The race was all to play for
The race was all to play for. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

A stripped back London Marathon amid the coronavirus pandemic has seen the world record holder’s four-time reign over the race come to a shock end. 

In a stunning upset Eliud Kipchoge, victor in each of his four previous London Marathon appearances and undefeated over the 26.2 mile distance in seven years, drastically dropped off the field in the final stages. 

The 35-year-old Kenyan could only manage eighth place, despite being the favourite. 

With the title suddenly all to play for, Ethiopian Kitata snatched took the victory in two hours, five minutes and 41 seconds, pipping Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba on the line after a thrilling sprint finish.

This year the usual scenes of tens of thousands of amateur runners and spectators descending on the capital to conquer the race for charitable causes were cancelled.

Kipchoge was left wanting after finishing eighth
Kipchoge was left wanting after finishing eighth. Picture: PA

Instead the event, already postponed from April, was replaced with an elite-only 19-lap race around St James’s Park. 

In the women’s race, Brigid Kosgei, who holds the women's world record, defended her title, overtaking Ruth Chepngetich and finishing in 2:18.58, three minutes and three seconds ahead of American Sara Hall in second. 

But eyes were fixed on the plot twist in the men’s race, where Kipchoge - who set a world record of 2:01.39 in 2018 - failed to seize on his closest challenger Kenenisa Bekele pulling out at last minute due to injury, to win his fifth London Marathon title. 

“I’m very disappointed but, all in all, this is sport,” Kipchoge said. “I got a blocked ear the over last 15km. 

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya defended her title
Brigid Kosgei of Kenya defended her title. Picture: PA
The men's finishers (L to R): Sisay Lemma (3rd), Shura Kitata (1st), Vincent Kipchumba (2nd)
The men's finishers (L to R): Sisay Lemma (3rd), Shura Kitata (1st), Vincent Kipchumba (2nd). Picture: PA

“I tried to keep going and make sure I finished, to show there is always hope in the world. It’s not the end of the world that I can’t win.

“It’s not suicide. This is sport and we need to embrace ourselves. I want to congratulate the top finishers for bringing hope to the streets of London at this time of Covid-19.”

Instead Kitata pressed ahead and crossed the line one second before Kipchumba, with compatriot Sisay Lemma three seconds further back in third. 

Sir Mo Farah, who as pacemaker helped his Team GB colleagues secure the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11.30, said the defeat “was a shock for all of us… but that happens, it’s sport”. 

The women's finishers (L to R): Sara Hall, Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepngetich
The women's finishers (L to R): Sara Hall, Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepngetich. Picture: PA

Jonny Mellor was the first British man across the line in a time of 2:10:38, and compatriot Ben Connor also finished inside the Olympic qualifying time.

In the women’s race, there was disappointment for the two big British hopefuls, Lily Partridge and Steph Twell, who both pulled out well before the finish.

A faster race was predicted without the quirks of the usual street race, but the incessant rain and autumnal temperatures put paid to that.

The wheelchair race was due to take place later on Sunday.