Kiptum remembered in Kenya’s London marathon double

Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir and Alexander Mutiso Munyao won the women’s and men’s elite races on a poignant day at the London marathon.

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir won the London marathon in a women’s-only world record as Alexander Mutiso Munyao’s victory in the men’s race made it a Kenyan double.

The race on Sunday was preceded by 30 seconds of applause for Kelvin Kiptum, 2023 winner of the men’s race, who was killed in a car accident in February.

The poignant day ended with Jepchirchir in particular putting down a marker ahead of her title defence at the Paris Olympics.

The field for the women’s race was considered one of the best ever assembled, with three of the four fastest women in history competing.

The 30-year-old Kenyan came home in front of world record holders Tigst Assefa and Joyciline Jepkosgei to break the record mark without male pacemakers.

Jepchirchir’s time of 2 hours 16 minutes 16 seconds smashed the women’s-only course record of 2:17:01 set by compatriot Mary Keitany in 2017.

“I was not expecting to run a world record,” said Jepchirchir. “I knew it might be beat, but I did not expect it to be me.

“I am so happy to qualify for the Olympics and I feel grateful. I’m happy to be at Paris and my pray[er] is to be there and run well to defend my title. I know it won’t be easy but I’ll try my best.”

Athletics - London Marathon - London, Britain - April 21, 2024 Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir crosses the finish line to win the women's elite race REUTERS/Matthew Childs
Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir crosses the finish line to win the women’s elite race [Matthew Childs/Reuters]

In the men’s race, Munyao delivered another win for Kenya on a day when the London Marathon remembered last year’s champion: Kiptum, who was killed in a car crash in Kenya in February.

Kiptum’s countryman and friend ran alone down the final straight in front of Buckingham Palace to earn an impressive victory in his first major marathon.

Mutiso Munyao said he spoke to Kiptum after his win in London last year and that the world record holder is always on his mind when he’s competing.

“He’s in my thoughts every time, because he was my great friend,” Mutiso Munyao said. “It was a good day for me.”

Athletics - London Marathon - London, Britain - April 21, 2024 General view during a moments applause in tribute to former runner Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum before the start of the men's elite race REUTERS/John Sibley
A moment’s applause was observed in tribute to Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum before the start of the men’s elite race [John Sibley/Reuters]

Mutiso Munyao denied 41-year-old Kenenisa Bekele a first victory in the 42km (26.2-mile) London Marathon by pulling away from the Ethiopian great with about 3km (1.9 miles) to go Sunday for his biggest career win.

Mutiso Munyao and Bekele were in a two-way fight for the win until the Kenyan made his move as they ran along the River Thames, quickly building a six-second gap that only grew as he ran toward the finish.

“At 40 kilometers (25 miles), when my friend Bekele was left [behind], I had confidence that I can win this race,” the 27-year-old Mutiso Munyao said.

He finished in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 1 second, with Bekele finishing 14 seconds behind. Emile Cairess of Britain was third, 2:45 back.

Bekele, the Ethiopian former Olympic 10,000 and 5,000-metre champion, was also the runner-up in London in 2017, but has never won the race.

Mutiso Munyao is relatively unknown in marathon circles and said he wasn’t sure whether this win would be enough to make Kenya’s Olympic team for Paris.

“I hope for the best,” he said. “If they select me I will go and work for it.”

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