Mary Keitany crosses the finish line in Olomouc / Photo credit: Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon

Kenya’s Mary Keitany took 41 seconds off the women’s-only world record at the Virgin Money London Marathon, running 2:17:01 at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday 23 April.

In an incredible display of front-running, the 2009 world half marathon champion set off on her own with just a pacemaker for company in the early stages, passing 5km in 15:31, 10km in 31:17 and half way in 1:06:54.

Keitany’s pace in the first half suggested a finish time faster than the outright world record of 2:15:25, set by Paula Radcliffe in 2003. But her pace started to slip in the second half, but she still maintained enough form to stay on course to break Radcliffe’s women’s-only world record set in 2005.

At 30km she was 78 seconds ahead of her nearest challenger, three-time Olympic gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba. The Ethiopian began to make inroads into Keitany’s lead in the final stages, but then suffered from stomach cramps just a few kilometres from the finish.

Keitany held on to her lead and charged down The Mall to win in 2:17:01, the second-fastest time in history.

Dibaba finished strongly to take second place in an Ethiopian record of 2:17:56, taking more than a minute from Tiki Gelana’s Ethiopian record and moving to third on the world all-time list.

Ethiopia’s Aselefech Mergia finished third in 2:23:06.

In the men’s race, Daniel Wanjiru, 24, made it a Kenyan one-two after holding off the challenge of the Ethiopian great Kenenisa Bekele to win in 2:05:48.

Bekele had to settle for second in 2:05:57, with Kenyan Brendan Karoki finishing third in 2:07:41, four seconds ahead of Chicago Marathon winner Abel Kirui.

Tanzania’s Alphonce Simbu claimed the fifth place in 2:09:10 while world champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from Eritrea dove under 2:10 to finish sixth in 2:09:57.