Sun, 13 Apr 2008 11:50:02 GMT
London - Martin Lel of Kenya set a new course record at the London Marathon Sunday to defend his title and win the race for the third time in four years.
Lel posted 2 hours 5 minutes and 15 seconds to beat fellow Kenyan Samuel Wanjiru (2:05:24) in a sprint finish, with Morocco's Abderrahim Goumri third in 2:05:30.
Lel at one point seemed to be on course to beat the world record time of 2:04:26 set by Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin, but the leading group slowed in the closing stages.
However, the 29-year-old Lel was able to better the previous London best of 2:05.38 set by Khalid Khannounchi of the United States in 2002.
Germany's Irina Mikitenko meanwhile took the women's race on her London debut and in only her second marathon, setting a national record time of 2:24:14.
The 36-year-old Kazakhstan-born athlete beat Russia's Svetlana Zakharova (2:24:39) into second place, while Ethiopia's Gete Wami, the pre-race favourite, came in third in 2:25:37 despite a fall at a feeding station just before 30 kilometres.
The race switched from one carriageway of the road to the other for about 200 metres on The Highway, near Tower Bridge.
The change added two meters to the race route.
A race organiser said: “There was a diversion at 13 miles due to a gas leak. We have been assured that this gas leak will not affect our runners in any way.”
Some 35,000 runners are pounding the streets today, hoping to make it across the finish line.
The 26-mile course runs from Greenwich and Blackheath in south east London to Buckingham Palace.
Among them is a man in a giant robot outfit, a 101-year old van cleaner and six Maasai warriors.
And their efforts are being aided by the weather, which last year turned temperatures up to record levels. Forecasters say it should be fine and warm, with showers more likely the longer people take to get round.
The 26-mile, 385-yard course runs from Greenwich and Blackheath in south east London to Buckingham Palace via Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.
Three-times winner and world marathon record-holder Paula Radcliffe has been forced to withdraw because of a toe injury.
The men’s race is likely to be dominated by Kenyan runners. Many are backing defending champion Martin Lel or 2006 champion Felix Limo.
The event is crucially important for charities. Organisers say it is the largest single fundraising event in the world.
The race, sponsored by Flora, began with staggered starts from 9am.
The professional athletes start in Blackheath while the main bulk of the runners leave from Greenwich Park.
Among the runners is blind athlete Dave Heeley, who yesterday completed his sixth marathon in six days.
The father-of-three from West Bromwich will become the first blind athlete - and only the third runner - to complete seven marathons in seven days across seven continents if he finishes the race.
Also hoping to break a record is Buster Martin, a 101-year-old van cleaner from London. He hopes to become the oldest competitive marathon runner when he crosses the line.
Six Maasai warriors will also run the marathon to raise money for a well in their Tanzanian village.
They will sing and dance around the route wearing traditional dress and protecting their feet with strips of rubber from old tyres.
Marathon veteran Lloyd Scott, 46, from Rainham, Essex, will run inside a nine-feet tall robot costume.
In 2002 the leukaemia survivor wore a deep-sea diving suit which weighed 130lb and completed the course in five days, eight hours, 29 minutes and 46 seconds.
In 2006, he took just over eight days to finish the race, wearing a suit of armour and pulling a 200lb dragon.
Among the celebrity runners are chefs Gordon Ramsay and Michel Roux and Liberal Democrat mayoral hopeful Brian Paddick.
Ex-Olympic rower James Cracknell and TV presenter Ben Fogle, are using the marathon as a training run for their 400-mile race to the South Pole in November.
Big Brother 2002 winner Kate Lawler is running for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust wearing skimpy underwear designed by Ann Summers, the lingerie firm which she promotes.
Rebecca and Mike Tomlinson, the daughter and husband of multiple marathon runner Jane Tomlinson, are running together.
Jane, from Yorkshire, died in September after a seven-year battle with cancer during which she performed astonishing feats of endurance and raised millions for charity.
Both Rebecca, 20, and Mike, 46, are running for Jane’s Appeal, the charity which she set up.
And the winners were:
Favourite Martin Lel from Kenya won the men's race, nine seconds ahead of his countryman Samuel Wanjiru with Abderrahim Goumri from Morocco in third.
The highest finishing Brit in the men’s race was Dan Robinson who came 13th in what was believed to be Beijing Olympic qualifying time.
British athlete Liz Yelling finished ninth in two hours 28 minutes and 33 seconds, four minutes behind the winner Irina Mikitenao, who had led for much of the race, and beat Svetlana Zakharova into second place.
British wheelchair athlete Shaho Qadir drew huge applause from the crowd when he got out of his wheelchair a few metres short of the line pushed it across, and then pulled himself over the finish on his hands.
The men’s wheelchair race was won by Brit Davie Wear and the women’s wheelchair race by Sandra Graf from Switzerland.