Munyao beats Bekele, while Cairess storms to London podium finish – AW

    Kenyan thwarts his rival’s bid for glory, while Brits complete the top four and book Olympics places

    An eventful men’s elite race at the London Marathon resulted in a surprise winner, a legendary figure coming close to the win he so craved, and two British athletes creating history.

    Victory went to Kenya’s Alexander Mutiso Manyao, making his London debut, after he won a compelling duel with the great Kenenisa Bekele to break the tape in 2:04:01. The Ethiopian had the consolation of breaking his world M40 record with 2:04:15 in second.

    Alexander Mutiso Munyao (London Marathon Events)

    The identity of the third-placed athlete caught the attention of the home crowd, too, as Emile Cairess stamped his ticket for the Paris Olympics thanks to his personal best of 2:06:46, which puts him second on the British all-time lists. Mo Farah’s 2:05:11 remains the national record but it is surely living on borrowed time.

    To add further to the cause for celebration, Cairess’s fellow Brit and friend Mahamed Mahamed also produced a superb run to come fourth with 2:07:05, making him the third-fastest Briton ever and also making sure he will be announced on the Olympic team on Monday morning.

    It is the first time two British men have finished in the London Marathon’s top four since Hugh Jones and Kevin Forster in 1988.

    Marc Scott finished 11th in 2:11:19 on his marathon debut, while Callum Hawkins was 16th in 2:17:34.

    The British success came shortly after the conclusion of a remarkable race for first place which, at one stage, had looked like it might go the way of the 41-year-old Bekele.

    This was his sixth time in London and his previous best had been second place in 2017 and in the pre-event press conference the former 5000m and 10,000m Olympic champion had spoken about his deep desire to finally taste victory and perhaps even prove a point to the Ethiopian Olympic selectors.

    Kenenisa Bekele at the London Marathon (LM Events)

    Having been sat in a pack with New York champion and race favourite Tamirat Tola – who led the field through halfway in 61:29 – as well as Manyao, plus Ethiopians Mikesa Mengesha and Dawit Wolde, Bekele decided to shake things up a little through mile 19.

    He looked to be enjoying himself as he surged to the front, a move that resulted in Tola soon being dropped and, try as he might, Mengesha could not live the with the pace either. It was a two-way fight.

    Bekele appeared to be turning back the clock and finding the kind of form that took him to a marathon best of 2:01:41 five years ago. Yet Munyao is no slouch either, having won the Prague Marathon last year with 2:03:11, and refused to budge, the competitors matching each other stride for stride.

    As the closing 2km approached, it was the 27-year-old who began to edge ahead and create a gap that Bekele was ultimately unable to bridge.

    Munyao admitted to having felt fearful of his opponent but the former world U18 3000m bronze medallist said: “At around 40K is where I thought I could win. My focus was good and I felt good. This is the biggest marathon of my career and it means a lot. I think many good things are yet to come.”

    He may well now find an Olympic marathon in his future. The odds are against the same applying to Bekele, though he is clearly not done with the marathon just yet.

    “I was very close [to victory],” he said. “My lower back hurt. I am happy, but a bit disappointed. I think I have two to three more years of marathons.”

    Behind that battle, the other members of the leading pack were going backwards and being reeled in by Cairess, who had been on British record schedule in the early stages of the race but, in the blustery conditions, dialled the pace back to achieve the primary objective of securing his Olympic place.

    He hit the halfway mark in 62:50 and looking comfortable. Though he was aware of going past some opponents on the run-in, the 26-year-old only discovered he had made the podium just as he was finishing.

    He and Mahamed have raced with each other on the domestic and international scene through the age groups but now both, as well as Phil Sesemann, will set about plotting the British Olympic challenge.

    Mahamed’s run was all the more remarkable that he had been observing Ramadan and had to work his training schedule around fasting. That often meant fitting sessions in during the early morning – or late at night.

    Both he and Cairess will now prepare for Paris together with Phil Sesemann, who had already secured his Olympic place.

    “This really is a dream come true and I just can’t stop smiling,” said Mahamed.

    “[British distance running] is just getting better and better, and we [himself and Emile Cairess] have a few more years at the top.”

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