One of the UK’s great events took place on Sunday 2 October, with the staging of the London Marathon, regarded by many as the best in the world. This year however, with rail strikes hitting the country and consequently making travel to the capital difficult for many, the number of runners was down from the expected 50,000 to around 42,000, but that didn’t detract from the special atmosphere that this annual celebration generates.
Several high-profile withdrawals that included Sir Mo Farah and women’s world record holder Brigid Kosgei, had been a blow to the organisers, but nevertheless, the mens and womens races were still excellent adverts for marathon racing and both finished with first time winners, after breakaway victories for Kenya’s Amos Kipruto and Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw.
Last time in October
This year’s London Marathon marked the third and final time it will take place in the month of October. It was moved because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but will now return to its traditional spring date in 2023. The races within the marathon rightly have earned it recognition as one of the top five world majors, but it is far more than that. It is a sporting festival that attracts professional athletes, enthusiastic joggers and costume-wearing charity fundraisers from all over the world.
Sir Mo’s disappointment
Sir Mo was forced to withdraw due to a hip problem that the four-time Olympic champion had been suffering with and had failed to respond to treatment. He had been optimistic of a good run, but said he was still in too much discomfort to contemplate running competitively. Race director Hugh Brasher said the organisers were naturally disappointed Mo couldn’t run, and wished him a very speedy recovery and hoped to see him running in the 2023 Marathon, fully recovered.
Other elite athletes missing
Farah’s withdrawal came on top of other big name stars from the elite lists of runners having to pull out through injury. These included the women’s world record holder, Brigid Kosgei, who succumbed to a hamstring problem, and Scottish favourite Eilish McColgan who had blood sugar issues. There were also two significant departures from the men’s field in Vincent Kipchumba and Mosinet Geremew, who respectively were second and third last year.
Emotional runs for Ukrainian’s
Among the runners in the open races were Kostiantyn Bidnenko and Viktoriya Kiose who ran for United 24, a foundation supporting Ukraine, after they fled to the UK from their home nation after Russia’s unlawful invasion in February. Bidnenko, 35, reported for military duty. Asked if he had any medical conditions, he explained his alkaptonuria, a rare, progressive genetic disease that causes pain in the joints. It meant he couldn’t serve his country on the frontline. So via Lviv, Warsaw and Naples, he and his fiancée Kiose arrived in London back in May.
Despite being a long way from home they still wanted to do something to help the cause so they ran to raise money for United 24, the foundation supporting Ukraine, and to buy drones for volunteers working in the country. He said: “We had a very strong motivation, we felt a responsibility not only for ourselves, but for our country and people too.”
One of the big attractions of the London marathon is the chance to pass many of the great city landmarks on the way around the course, including the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, and Tower Bridge, which also acts as a marker, with it being roughly the half way point.
This year for the first time as the runners approached the final five miles of the race, the organisers included a 250 metre carnival-like stretch called “Rainbow Row” to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. They said: “It is important to include participants from all walks of life, sexualities and genders.” Towards the end the runners caught sight of the London Eye, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace before finishing in The Mall, alongside St James’s Palace.
The British Army Band played the national anthem prior to the start of the elite men’s race and mass start in a fitting tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II after her sad passing last month.
Kipruto eases to victory
Kipruto then won the men’s race in two hours, four minutes and 39 seconds after pulling away from the rest of the field with about three miles to go. Ethiopia’s Leul Gebresilase was second, crossing the line 33 seconds later, with Bashir Abdi of Belgium coming home in third place.
Yehualaw too good
In the women’s race, and just six months after making her debut over the distance, 23-year-old Yehualaw finished in two hours, 17 minutes and 26 seconds, and became the youngest champion in a time which was the third fastest women’s London Marathon in history. She had broken clear with four miles remaining, moving quickly away from last years winner, Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya. The breakaway included an astonishing 4:43 mile split on the 24th mile, which was a staggering achievement. Jepkosgei finished second, 41 seconds back, with Ethiopian Alemu Megertu placing third.
Earlier, Swiss pair, Marcel Hug and Catherine Debrunner set new course records as they took the wheelchair titles. Four-time champion Hug defended his 2021 crown in one hour, 24 minutes and 38 seconds, holding off a strong late challenge from American Daniel Romanchuk. The 36-year-old said it was one of his toughest marathons for a long time, admitting he had tried everything to break away from his challenger but found him too strong to break, but was obviously delighted to make the sprint finish first. Great Britain’s David Weir, who was making his 23rd consecutive London Marathon appearance, came in third.
Two in a week
Debrunner won her first London title in one hour, 38 minutes and 24 seconds. Previously a sprinter, it was the 27-year-old’s second marathon victory in a week after winning her maiden title over the distance in Berlin last week. She admitted it had been “a crazy year” for her; and that this race had been her toughest yet. American Susannah Scaroni was second, almost four minutes back, while Great Britain’s Eden Rainbow-Cooper was third.
Prize money highest ever
The 2022 London Marathon wheelchair races are the richest in history, after the total prize fund was increased by $57,800 (£48,000). The total prize money on offer has increased from £118,700 to £167,000, with the winners of the men’s and women’s races receiving £29,300 each, up from £20,900 in 2021.