Kenyan maestros Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei delivered landmark performances to illuminate another record-breaking edition of the Virgin Money London Marathon as more people than ever before finished the 39th edition of the world’s greatest race on Sunday.
Kipchoge cemented his reputation as one of the finest athletes of all time when he became the first elite man ever to win the London Marathon on four occasions, elegantly striding to victory in the second quickest time in history, a superb course record of 2 hours 2 minutes 37 seconds.
Already the world record holder, the 34-year-old Olympic champion delivered his latest astonishing masterclass after his compatriot Kosgei had clocked the ninth fastest time ever of 2:18:20. The 25-year-old made her own bit of history as the youngest-ever women’s winner thanks to the race’s fastest-ever second half of 66:42.
“I’m happy to win on the streets of London for the fourth time and to make history,” said Kipchoge after majestically dismissing his final three pursuers over the last two miles and joining Ingrid Kristiansen as the only four-time winner of the elite event.
“The crowd in London is wonderful and that spirit pushed me. From the first kilometre to the last, everybody is shouting.”
Records tumbled in the para athletics races too as Australia’s Michael Roeger smashed the T46 global mark for arm amputees and El Amin Chentouf set new world figures in the T12 class for vision-impaired athletes.
London also saluted a pair of ground-breaking champions in the T54 wheelchair contests, as 20-year-old American ‘rocket man’ Daniel Romanchuk enjoyed his fourth Abbott World Marathon Majors victory in six months to take the men’s crown, and the indefatigable 34-year-old Manuela Schär completed a fantastic ‘grand slam’ of all six Abbott World Marathon Majors races by sealing her second London win.
Such performances for the ages placed a fitting exclamation point on a day when Britain’s favourite race again took mass-participation running to a new level, with a record 42,906 starters and no fewer than 42,549 finishing on The Mall by 19:00, eclipsing 2018’s record total of 40,273 by more than 2,000.
With such huge numbers, the event easily passed its £1 billion fundraising milestone, celebrated through the day’s #ThanksaBillion campaign, as the unprecedented thousands endured the 26.2-mile adventure to raise millions for charity.
Tennis legend Sir Andy Murray, arguably Britain’s greatest-ever sportsman, pushed the red button to launch the men’s and mass field starts after admitting that he would like to be an ace in the London Marathon himself one day.
He would have loved to see his fellow sporting knight, Sir Mo Farah, achieve his treasured ambition of winning the London Marathon but the 36-year-old, despite setting a British record for 30km en route, could not live with Kipchoge’s searing pace and had to settle for fifth in 2:05:39, nearly half a minute outside the European record he set in Chicago last year.
But there was good news for Britain too, as Callum Hawkins and Charlotte Purdue produced huge personal bests to clinch top 10 places and qualify for this year’s World Championships and next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
Behind the elites, came the masses, including the event’s perennial fastest celebrity, Chris Newton, as the 45-year-old former world track cycling champion clocked an outstanding 2:45:24 with model Nell McAndrew the quickest woman celebrity in 3:15:08.
Another sporting luminary, former Wimbledon champion Amélie Mauresmo, had a busy morning, acting as the official starter for the women’s and World Para Athletics Marathon Championships races before clambering off the podium and clocking 3:22:46. The only disappointment for the French star was that she just missed out on the free dinner offered by former charge Murray had she broken her best.
All eight of the EastEnders crew made it home, raising funds for Charity of the Year Dementia Revolution and honouring Dame Barbara Windsor, whose husband Scott Mitchell crossed line in 5:41:40 on his 56th birthday along with seven stars of the BBC soap.
The tireless Ever Present, Chris Finill, one of 11 runners who have completed every edition of the race, showed that turning 60 has hardly slowed him down as he clocked 2:59:46, breaking the three-hour barrier for the 38th time in 39 races.
No fewer than 38 Guinness World Records were set as the more enterprising runners launched a series of delightful history-making adventures.
Matthew Berry was the fastest of the lot, becoming ‘the fastest marathoner dressed as a zombie (male)’ in 2:43:54 while the crowd saluted Charlotte Farge, Cey Uzun, Rob Jones, Helen Smith, Andy Moulden and David Brennan, who together carried their Thunderbird 2 outfit across the Finish Line in 5:59:33 to become the fastest marathoners in a six-person costume.
The day started with Britain’s talented youngsters showing their promise in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon, once the nursery of Farah and David Weir, none more so than Bea Wood, who won the girls’ Under-15 race for a second successive year, and Zien Zhou, who was the first athlete across the line as he defended his title in the Under-17 boys’ wheelchair event.
At the end of an incredible day, event director Hugh Brasher summed it all up, saying: “We have had many extraordinary days in the history of the London Marathon but today was even more than that. Thanks to the incredible efforts of a record number of runners, we have now raised more than £1,000,000,000 for good causes.
“We saw fantastic races with Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathon runner of all time, recording the second fastest time in history to smash his own course record and become the first ever four-time male open champion. Bridget Kosgei won her first London title and Daniel Romanchuk and Manuela Schär dominated the wheelchair races with emphatic victories.
“Londoners came out in huge numbers to cheer on the runners and I would like to say Thanks A Billion to every runner and supporter who celebrated the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon with us today. If you are inspired to run in our 40th race next year, the ballot is now open.”
The 40th edition of the London Marathon will take place on Sunday 26 April 2020 and the public ballot online entry system for the event opened this morning, the first time the ballot has opened on Race Day.
It will remain open until 17:00 on Friday 3 May, giving everyone a fair chance to enter.