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Pacesetters let me down, says London hero

Seven months after breaking the World Record, Wilson Kipsang was a man on a mission at the London Marathon.

In fine form, and boasting of the fastest time of 2:03:23 set at the Berlin Marathon, Kipsang expected a tight race in London as his challengers had some of the best times in the world such as Emmanuel Mutai (2:03:52), Geoffrey Mutai (2:04:15), Ayele Abshero (2:04:23), Feyisa Lilesa (2:04:32) and defending champion Tsegaye Kebede (2:04:38).

The top field and conducive weather were perfect for a new world record.

But in spite of recapturing the London title that he had relinquished to Kebede last year in a course record time of 2:04:09, Kipsang was disappointed by poor pacesetting.

He shaved off 11 seconds from Emmanuel Mutai’s 2:04:40 set in London in 2011.

The 2012 London Olympic Games marathon bronze medallist decided to hit the front after the three pacesetters, who included the legendary Haile Gebrsellasie, failed the test.

“I was eyeing a course record and the possibility of improving my world record but the pacesetting let me down,” said Kipsang, who won the race in 2012 with a time of 2:04:44.

During the recent London meet, Kipsang shrugged off a surprise charge from 2012 Paris Marathon champion Stanley Biwott in the last mile to cross the line ahead of him by 26 seconds.

It was a bad day for Uganda’s Olympic and world champion Stephen Kiprotich, who finished 12th.

“They were some head winds at 25km mark. The pacesetters dropped out too early, and only one remained at 15km,” said Kipsang.

Took charge

The pacesetters Gebrsellasie, Richard Sigei and Edwin Kiptoo led through 5km and 10kms. Only Sigei endured up to the 15km mark when Kipsang took charge.

“I had to take the risk. I ran the race in an easy and comfortable way,” said Kipsang.

He said the charge by Biwott surprised him. When he broke away from a pack of eight only Biwott stayed with him.

The two ran shoulder-to-shoulder for 10km, before Kipsang made his move with just over 2km left. 

“I didn’t expect Biwott, but other others such as Geoffrey and Emmanuel Mutai to challenge me. Biwott looked strong and in good shape, therefore the race became more mental and tactical. I gave it my all,” said Kipsang.

The world beating athlete said he would take a rest, before contesting the Bupa Great Manchester Run on May 18 where he will go head-to-head with Ethiopian superstar Kenenisa Bekele, who recently set a new record at the Paris Marathon. 

“I would rest, and then prepare for Manchester race. After that, I shall decide which other marathon I would compete in,” said the triumphant athlete.

Mixed reactions

Before the race, there were mixed reactions over the choice of Gebrsellasie as a pacesetter. 

According to organisers, it was an honour for the legendary Ethiopian to accept the role. They expected him to stretch the field for a possible new world record.

But the fears of some athletes, who expressed scepticism before the race came to pass. 

Some felt that the Ethiopian had done great things and should not have lowered his dignity by agreeing to be a pacesetter.