Eliud Kipchoge and Jemima Sumgong gave a timely boost to the tarnished reputation of Kenyan athletics on Sunday with courageous wins in the men’s and women’s London Marathons. Kipchoge set a new course record for the men in winning the full-distance London race for the second straight year.
The 31-year-old former track star clocked an official time of 2hrs 03mins 04secs, the second fastest run in history over the distance, just seven seconds shy of the world record set by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto at the Berlin Marathon in September 2014.
Kipchoge broke clear of another Kenyan, Stanley Biwott, with about three kilometres to go and sprinted home well ahead of Biwott with track legend Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia in third. He celebrated by raising his finger as he made the final turn but appeared to realise just before the line that he could have broken Kimetto’s world best time. Kipchoge is the first man to win back-to-back London marathons since Martin Lel of Kenya in 2008.
For Biwott it was the second time he has finished runner-up in London after 2014. He was fourth behind winner Kipchoge last year. His time of 2:03:51 was a personal best. Former Olympic and world track champion over 5,000 and 10,000 kms Bekele showed a return to form after a niggling series of injuries.
Sumgong got her first major marathon victory since Rotterdam three years ago and followed runner-up finishes in Boston, Chicago and New York. She posted an unofficial time of two hours 22 minutes and 58 seconds, five seconds ahead of Tufa with third place going to Florene Kiplagat of Kenya in 2:23:29.
The Kenyan double in London will boost morale back home after the shockwaves that came from 40 Kenyan athletes testing positive for banned substances over the past five years. The east African nation’s government has subsequently moved to avoid a potential ban from the Rio Olympics by passing a new law last week to make doping a criminal offence. None of Kenya’s current top marathon runners have been implicated in the doping scandals.