Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge described his third Virgin Money London Marathon victory on Sunday as the greatest achievement of his glittering career as he looked back on a day when he was crowned king of the roads and sealed a third Abbott World Marathon Majors title.
Kipchoge’s majestic performance at the head of one of the greatest elite fields in men’s marathon history was his ninth consecutive win and the 10th in his five-year-old marathon career.
Two of those have come at the prestigious Berlin Marathon and one in Chicago, while two years ago he won what many regard as the greatest prize of all when he claimed an Olympic marathon gold at the Rio Games.
But Eliud Kipchoge said today that becoming only the third man to clinch a London Marathon treble was his crowning moment.
“This tops everything,” said Kipchoge. “Winning a third time in London and with a third Majors title at the same time is right at the top.
“It was a really big win for me because it was a tough race. I tried hard to concentrate on the distance and my own running and wait for the last few miles.”
Kipchoge’s performance was a mesmerising one as he ran at the head of the field for the entire 26.2 miles, barely changing his stride or veering from his course except to pick up his drinks bottles, his eyes set unerringly on the road ahead.
He passed halfway in a record 61 minutes flat – a target set, he revealed today, at his request – and maintained an unrelenting rhythm towards the Finish Line as one-by-one his opponents fell away.
By the time they reached Canary Wharf there were only two men left – the young Ethiopian, Tola Shura Kitata, and Britain’s big hope, Sir Mo Farah, who appeared at Kipchoge’s shoulder at 30km only to see the master move away with apparent ease.
Kitata stuck to his heels for another five miles until Kipchoge shrugged him off too as they dipped into the welcome shade under Blackfriars Bridge. Not that Kipchoge paid either of them much attention.
“If you want to run fast you have to run in front,” he said. “I didn’t sense Mo there but I saw him. But I was ready to do what was in my mind.
“I wasn’t running against anybody, I was running as Eliud. My mind was fully concentrated on the distance. It was tough in the middle of the race so I needed to concentrate on finishing the race.”
As for going out at such a blistering pace on a baking day, for Kipchoge it was all just part of the plan.
“I knew we couldn’t go that fast for the whole distance,” he said. “I wasn’t worried because I knew I would be OK.
“My aim was to run a beautiful race. I didn’t aim for the world record. I knew when coming here I was going to run a beautiful race.”
Cheruiyot’s win was also a thing of beauty, albeit one of contrasting style, as she ran a perfectly judged and evenly paced race that eventually paid dividends when her world record-chasing rivals, Mary Keitany and Tirunesh Dibaba, hit the wall.
Cheruiyot, who was fourth on her marathon debut in London last year, clinched the biggest win yet in her short marathon career when she crossed the line in 2:18:31, five minutes quicker than she’s ever run before.
“I learned from last year to be more patient,” said Cheruiyot. “I went too fast last time and was totally kaput at the end.
“This year I saw Mary and Tirunesh were going for the world record but I wanted to run a race I was comfortable with.
“Yesterday I was thinking about running 2:20, so in my mind I was saying if I run 69 seconds at halfway, maybe the second will be 70. And then I found I was chasing someone.”
In fact, Cheruiyot passed the half-way mark in fourth place in 68:56, a full minute and 40 seconds adrift of the leading pair, but stuck to her guns as she closed the gap and reeled them in.
She finally moved into the lead with just three miles left, passing Keitany without a glance as she raced on to clinch her first Abbott World Marathon Majors victory and become the fourth quickest woman ever over the classic distance.
“I’m done with track now,” said Cheruiyot. “My legs were painful last night, but I’m feeling better now.”
As for Kipchoge’s future, he said: “My plan ended yesterday in London. For now, I’m blank. It’s my coach’s problem.
“Marathon is life,” he added. “And as long as I’m enjoying life, I’m enjoying the marathon.”