Peres Jepchirchir sprints to women-only world record in London – AW

    Olympic champion comes out on top in brilliant battle and puts herself in pole position for Paris, while Mhairi Maclennan finishes as the best of British on 26.2-mile debut

    Peres Jepchirchir won the waiting game that developed in the elite women’s race at the London Marathon, sprinting away in the very final stages to break the women’s-only world record in the process.

    The Olympic champion’s victory, in a time of 2:16:16, also strengthened her hand in the fight to be selected for the Kenyan team headed for Paris this summer, where she hopes to defend her title.

    An assured performance that showcased her championships-winning nous delivered just what she was looking for as she took down Mary Keitany’s mark of 2:17:01 from 2017 – also set in London.

    Behind Jepchipchir came Ethiopian world record-holder Tigist Assefa, who was unable to follow her rival’s race-deciding kick, and finished in 2:16:23, one second ahead of 2021 London winner Joyciline Jepkosgei.

    (London Marathon Events)

    Much of the pre-race attention had been on the presence of Assefa, the former 800m runner with a sub two-minute time to her name who was forced by Achilles issues to try the marathon. Destroying the world record with 2:11:53 in Berlin during her third attempt at the marathon last autumn suggested it was a wise choice.

    Her previous races have been very different affairs to this, though. Whereas Berlin was a test of speed, with the quality of the opposition exceptionally high, the London wind blowing hard and athletes also with Olympic selection in mind, this came down to a battle of wits and wills.

    It was still a speedy start to proceedings, with the opening 10km covered in 31:26 – on schedule for just under 2:14. The pace did slow a little and Assefa was still officially in front at the halfway stage, reached in 67:04.

    In reality she remained at the head of a large group that also contained her compatriot and training partner Tigist Ketema, Jepchirchir, Jepkosgei, former world record-holder Brigid Kosgei, former London winner Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Megertu Alemu.

    Assefa seemed to be twitching to make a move but, with none of the field willing to do the work or shield their competitors in the blustery conditions, from here on in there were switches in positions, sideways glances and brief chats as the key figures began to feel each other out. The only one to find the going too strong was Kosgei, who fell back.

    On they progressed until Assefa surged between mile 17 and 18 to test her rivals.

    That did the job of removing Yehualaw, as well as Ketema, from the equation to leave a four-way fight between Assefa, Jepchirchir, Alemu and Jepkosgei.

    Yet the caginess continued. The four slowest miles of the race followed, before the pace picked up once again on the Embankment. None of this quartet would flinch, though, and they hit Birdcage Walk and the final mile all side by side.

    Alemu, runner-up to Sifan Hassan last year, was the first to crack, unable to stand the heat of this particular battle as she slipped back. No sooner had that happened than Jepchirchir saw her chance – and seized it. She has Boston and New York marathon wins to her name and, having finished third behind Hassan last year, also had a point to prove.

    As the Kenyan accelerated in front of Buckingham Palace, Assefa – running with her legs taped as a legacy of those Achilles problems – was unable to fully respond. Jepkosgei was hit with precisely the same problem and so it was that Jepchirchir could then stride away for a win that she celebrated wildly.

    Mhairi Maclennan (London Marathon Events)

    It was also a day to remember for Mhairi Maclennan, the Scot who was making her marathon debut. She produced an impressive performance to finish 11th in 2:29:15, coming home as the best of the British women’s elite field.

    Her time might have been outside of the Olympic qualifying standard (2:26:50) but that had not been the  ambition for the 29-year-old, who has competed for Britain a number of times in cross country events.

    This was more a voyage of discovery and, after long-term struggles with illness, a welcome show of promise. “I had the debut of dreams,” she said. The British top three in the elite race was completed by Becky Briggs in 12th with 2:35:25 and Rachel Hodgkinson 13th in 2:36:49. Meanwhile, from the mass start, Molly Smith clocked 2:36:22.

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