Record crowds were rewarded with two course records and one world record at the 34th Virgin Money London Marathon today as Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Edna Kiplagat won two thrilling elite races in the glorious London sunshine, while Tatyana McFadden and Marcel Hug raced to victory in the wheelchair event.
London 2012 rowing gold medallists Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins set 36,337 runners on their way from Greenwich this morning after 36,621 had registered to run by close of play on Saturday at the London Marathon Expo. By 6pm this evening, 35,864 runners had crossed the famous finish line on The Mall after passing more than three quarters of a million spectators along the route.
Fastest on the day was marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang who ran a perfectly judged race to win in 2:04:29, beating his countryman Stanley Biwott by 26 seconds, and slicing Emmanuel Mutai’s three-year-old course record by 11 seconds.
“It’s really great to win the London Marathon again,” Kipsang said after the race. “I feel I performed very well here today. There were a lot of strong guys in the field, and it was a tactical race, but my plan worked well.”
Never among the pre-race favourites, Biwott surprised everyone to place second, clocking 2:04:55 to ensure two men finished in under 2:05 for the first time in 34 races.
Mo Farah’s much-anticipated marathon debut ended in disappointment as the double world and Olympic track champion failed in his bid to break the long-standing British record, finishing tired and drained in eighth place, his time of 2:08:21 more than a minute outside his target.
“I just had a bad day at the office,” he said afterwards.
The Kenyan one-two in the men’s race was matched in the women’s, where Edna Kiplagat made it third-time lucky after being runner up here for the last two years.
She ran the fastest ever marathon by a 34-year-old to finish in 2:20:21, just three seconds ahead of her namesake, the unrelated Florence Kiplagat, after a sprint finish down the final 200m to the finish gantry in The Mall.
It was the closest finish since 1997 when another Kenyan, Joyce Chepchumba, outsprinted Britain’s Liz McColgan to win by a single second in 2:26:21.
Edna Kiplagat revealed afterwards that she’d adjusted her training because she had a feeling that today’s race might require a strong kick in the closing stages.
“I focused on speedwork in training, because I thought I might need a good sprint finish to win today and at long last that’s what I’ve done,” said Kiplagat.
Florence Kiplagat finished second in 2:20:24, while Ethiopian track star Tirunesh Dibaba was third on her marathon debut after dropping her drinks bottle at the 30km mark. Dibaba lost touch with the Kiplagats as she stopped to pick it up but hung on to clock an impressive 2:20:35.
Defending champion McFadden proved that she is still the dominant force in women’s wheelchair racing as she retained her crown with ease, smashing her course record in 1:45:12 to win by nearly a minute.
World champion Manuela Schar was second for Switzerland on her London debut, just ahead of Japan’s former London champion Wakako Tsuchida, while Britain’s Shelly Woods was ninth.
Switzerland’s Marcel Hug won the men’s wheelchair contest denying Britain’s David Weir in his bid for a record seventh title. After placing second three times in London, the Swiss racer got it right at last as crossed the line a second clear of Weir in 1:32:41.
El Amin Chentouf was again the first athlete home in the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup, the Moroccan world champion defending his T11-13 title in 2:25:07, more than a minute outside his world record from 12 months ago.
In the women’s T11-13 race, Spain’s Maria del Carmen Paredes Rodriguez smashed the official world record she set a year ago to retain her title in 2:59:22.
Britain’s Richard Whitehead delighted the record London crowds as he cruised around the course in 3:42:04 to win the T42 race.
Behind the stars, thousands of runners chased times and fundraising targets, turning the streets of London into a colourful parade as club runners, fun runners, celebrities and Guinness World Records chasers enjoyed the perfect sunshine, many pledging to transform their 26.2-mile challenge into millions of pounds for charity.
Former Team Sky cyclist Chris Newton put in an impressive performance to lead the celebrity runners home in 2:45:10, while ex-England footballer Michael Owen finished an hour later in 3:45:43.
Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer was one of the fastest female celebrities in 3:50:57, while Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls achieved his goal of a sub-five-hour marathon when he finished in 4:57:40, beating his previous best by more than 15 minutes.
The fastest of the eight MPs was Conservative Alun Cairns who ran his best time of 3:34:16 to beat Labour’s Dan Jarvis who also set a PB of 3:45:08.
More than 40 Guinness World Records were targeted in today’s race and 29 broken, including fastest marathon dressed as a baby by Ali King in 2:51:18, and fastest as a playing card by Lisa Wright in 4:23:57.
The ballot to enter the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon opens on Tuesday 22 April 2014.