The elite races for both the men and ladies events in the 2014 London Marathon had been described as clash between the established distance runners and the best of the 10,000 metre track athletes who were hoping for successful debuts on the 26.2 mile course. Tirunesh Dibaba and Mo Farah are the current Olympic and World champions at the optimum track distance but their attempts to overpower the specialised road runners on the streets of London failed to end in ultimate glory.
There was much hype surrounding the debut of Mo Farah at the marathon distance as the race contestants gathered in London and there was even talk of him beating one of the best fields ever assembled for a city marathon. Yet in the early stages on the race, Farah was content to run among a group of athletes detached from the leaders at the front.
A generous tempo was being set with Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie helping with his share of the duties. Once Kenyan athlete and World marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang decided to inject even more pace into the race, only compatriot Stanley Biwott could join him at the front as they raced clear of the remaining runners.
Kipsang eventually claimed victory in a course record of 2:04:27 with Farah finishing in eighth position in a time of 2:08:21 and over a minute outside the British record, a target which had been his ultimate goal.
For Farah, it may have been a case of being too timid in his first attempt at the distance as he was already 45 seconds adrift at the 10k marker. That is a lot of ground to concede to World class marathon runners at such an early stage and had he ran closer to the pace, it may have helped to boost his competitive spirit which has graced the athletics track in the past few years.
In contrast to Farah, Tirunesh Dibaba was content to race with the leaders and test her ability to win the race. When only Edna and Florence Kiplagat remained at the front with Dibaba following closely behind, the race seemed set for an intriguing battle.
However, the course of the race was to change dramatically. Dibaba dropped a water bottle and subsequently stopped to retrieve the object, prompting the two Kenyan athletes to increase the pace, a tactic from which Ethiopian Dibaba was never to recover. To her credit, she battled gamely to finish third behind eventual winner Edna Kiplagat but one wonders what might have happened but for the water bottle incident and the ensuing psychological damage.
Both Dibaba and Farah adopted completely different tactics in their debuts at the distance, but the established road runners proved that there is no margin for error in the unforgiving world of marathon racing.
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