(Telegraph) — If Mo Farah’s purpose in running the first half of the Virgin London Marathon was to advance his road-running education, then the double Olympic champion was given an object lesson by Tsegaye Kebede on Sunday.
A little over an hour after Farah dropped out as planned just after crossing Tower Bridge, the diminutive Ethiopian was celebrating a masterful victory in The Mall after timing his race to perfection to triumph in 2hr 6min 4sec.
Four miles before the finish, Kebede had been in fifth position and 49 seconds behind the leader but slowly he reeled in his opponents before overtaking Kenya’s Emmanuel Mutai in the last mile.
It was a textbook example of how to remain patient and conserve energy until the business end of a marathon – one of the skills Farah admits he has to learn as he prepares to make his debut over the full 26.2-mile distance in London in a year’s time.
After all the predictions of a course record and possibly even a new world mark, Kebede’s winning time was actually the slowest in London since 2007 as the blisteringly fast pace-making clearly took its toll in the latter stages.
The leading group had been exactly on world record pace at the halfway mark, shortly after Farah had exited stage left, and Patrick Makau’s world mark of 2hr 3min 38sec still looked feasible with eight miles remaining.
But, with temperatures rising, all thoughts of records soon disappeared as a leading group of four runners broke away. Kebede, wisely, chose not to go with them.
Kenya’s Stephen Biwott, a London Marathon debutant, was the first to attempt an attack at the 21-mile mark, though his surge lasted no more than a mile and a half when he was caught by Mutai.
In one of the most exciting finishes in years, it was Mutai who was then overtaken as Kebede raced past him just after the 25-mile mark to claim his second London crown following his victory in 2010. Mutai was second in 2hr 6min 34sec, with Ethiopian Ayele Abshero third in 2hr 6min 57sec.
Farah, who was using the first half of the race as a dry run for next year, kept his promise not to interfere with the race outcome by remaining at the back of the lead group until pulling up.
Afterwards, he paid tribute to the thousands of spectators who lined the streets to catch a glimpse of him in what was his first run in the capital since his gold medal heroics in the Olympic stadium.
“I felt good,” he said. “The crowd was absolutely awesome. They just want to make you go – push on, push on. I got really excited in the middle of the race but you have to let the guys do their race. It’s their race.
“Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo was the runaway winner of the women’s race, though the outcome might have been different had Tiki Gelena, the Ethiopian who beat her to the Olympic gold medal last summer, not fallen heavily in an ugly incident before the 10-mile mark.
Gelana, who was the quickest woman in the field, made the mistake of veering inside to grab a bottle at a drink station and ran straight across the path of wheelchair athlete Josh Cassidy, the 2010 London champion.
The collision sent her crashing to the ground and although she picked herself up and fought her way back to the leading group, the accident took its toll when she dropped off the pace after 15 miles. She eventually finished 16th.
Cassidy’s race was also ruined, with a 20th-place finish and a £1,500 bill for a new wheelchair. To say he was unhappy was an understatement and he immediately called on London Marathon organisers to change the running order of the races in future to allow the wheelchair athletes to race first instead of having to overtake the female runners en route.
Jeptoo, who was running on her own for the last five miles, clocked a winning time of 2hr 20min 15sec – 77 seconds ahead of world champion Edna Kiplagat.
Susan Partridge, the first Briton home in ninth place, had an extra reason to celebrate after taking more than 2½ minutes out of her lifetime best with a time of 2hr 30min 46sec that qualifies her for this summer’s World Championships in Moscow.
Early Life (Background)
Tsegaye Kebede Wordofa (born 15 January 1987) is an Ethiopian long-distance runner who competes in road running events, including marathons. He quickly rose to become a prominent distance runner after his international debut at the Amsterdam Marathon in 2007. In his second year of professional running, he won the Paris Marathon, the Fukuoka Marathon and won the marathon bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In the 2009 season he established himself as one of Ethiopia’s top athletes: he came second in the London Marathon and at his first World Championships in Athletics he took the bronze medal in the marathon. He retained his Fukuoka Marathon title at the end of 2009, running the fastest ever marathon race in Japan. He won the 2010 London Marathon – his first major marathon. He was also the winner of the 2013 London Marathon.
Tsegaye was brought up as part of a large family, the fifth child of thirteen, and his early years were marked by poverty. Living in Gerar Ber, a town some 40 km north of Addis Ababa, he collected firewood to sell and herded livestock to supplement his father’s earnings, paying for his own education and the rest of his family. He ate one meal a day and had to work every day to earn around 2.50 Ethiopian birr (US$0.30).
He began running for pleasure as an 8 year old and, after competing at a half marathon in Addis Ababa in 2006, an athletics coach (Getaneh Tessema) offered him the chance to train with his group. He attended a 10 km time trial session with the group in the following days, and he beat all runners with the exception of Deriba Merga, who went on to win the Great Ethiopian Run that year. He won the Abebe Bikila International Marathon a few months later, effectively resolving the visa problems he had encountered while trying to race overseas. His first marathon race abroad was the 2007 Amsterdam Marathon and he finished eighth with a new personal best of 2:08:16.Despite failing to reach the podium, this established him as among Ethiopia’s top marathon runners – indeed, Haile Gebrselassie and Deriba Merga were the only Ethiopians to run faster times that year.