Record numbers finished the Virgin Money London Marathon today as more than 39,000 completed the gruelling 26.2-mile journey from Blackheath to Westminster, making the 36th edition of the race the biggest in its history by almost 1,500 runners.
Of the 39,140 who crossed the Finish Line in The Mall by 18:15 this evening, one established a new world record and two broke course records on a day when astronaut Tim Peake became the first man ever to run a marathon in space and the event on Earth celebrated its one millionth finisher.
The star on the ground was Eliud Kipchoge who produced a #oneinamillion performance to smash the men’s course record and become the second fastest marathon runner in history.
Jemima Sumgong provided the day’s big drama, turning near tragedy into triumph just a day after Shakespeare’s birthday, as she rebounded from a heavy fall to seal the fifth Kenyan double in the event’s 36 editions.
Sumgong shrugged off her tumble and held off defending champion Tigist Tufa to take the women’s crown in 2:22:58 while Kipchoge out-kicked compatriot Stanley Biwott to retain the men’s title in 2:03:05, one minute 25 seconds inside Wilson Kipsang’s course record and just eight seconds outside the world’s best ever.
Kipchoge set a 30km world record en route to victory as he swept over event co-founder John Disley’s London course quicker than anyone else on two legs, becoming the first man since 2008 to defend the London Marathon crown.
Tatyana McFadden defended her title too, becoming the first to win four women’s wheelchair crowns in a row since Francesca Porcellato in 2006, while Marcel Hug won the men’s race for the second time to clinch his second victory in six days and deny David Weir a record seventh win.
McFadden and Hug both have maximum points in the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors wheelchair series and grabbed gold for their nations in the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup, while China’s Zheng Jin set a T11 world record in the women’s race for visually impaired runners.
Before all that breathtaking action, crowds around the Finish Line had already seen a course record fall in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon when national cross country champion Josh Cowperthwaite marked himself out as a star of the future by taking six seconds from the Under 15 boys’ mark.
The nation’s stars of the present were also in form as four British runners booked their tickets to the Rio Olympics, led by Scot Callum Hawkins who was eighth in the men’s race in a big personal best of 2:10:52.
Tsegai Tewelde was second Briton home, the former Eritrean providing the day’s big shock as he achieved the qualifying mark, while Alyson Dixon and Sonia Samuels secured their slots in the GB women’s team.
After the elites came the masses, a record field of 39,523 sent on their way by Peake’s 10-second countdown. All but 377 completed the course, the marathon’s one millionth finisher somewhere among them, their name to be announced on 9 May.
Of the celebrity ‘names’ who finished today, none was quicker than world champion cyclist Chris Newton who beat his own best time from 12 months ago as he crossed the line in 2:44:37.
Not far behind was the day’s top Dame, the double Olympic champion Kelly Holmes, who surprised even herself by cruising down The Mall to clock 3:11:27 as the fastest female celebrity runner.
Actress Natalie Dormer was not far behind in 3:51:21, while ever-present Chris Finill finished his 36th race in 2:56:05, maintaining an incredible record with his 35th sub-three-hour time.
Alun Cairns was again the fastest MP in 3:28:02, knocking 10 minutes from last year’s time, while Dan Jarvis also improved his time by running 3:43:38.
Meanwhile, there were 31 Guinness World Records, 30 on terra firma, and one in space, where Peake completed the Digital Virgin Money London Marathon in 3:35:21.
Sean Fitzpatrick was fastest of the Earthlings as he broke the record for wearing a film character costume in 2:39:08, followed rapidly by Alistair Smith, who clocked 2:45:37 as the fastest in a nurse’s uniform.
Naomi Flanagan was the quickest of the women, clocking 3:08:34 sporting a Tinkerbelle costume to become the fastest dressed as a book character.
“It was an unforgettable experience,” said Peake, a sentiment echoed by more than 39,000 happy London finishers tonight.