The 40th edition of the London Marathon offers athletes from across the world the chance to walk away with some huge cash prizes with sums that are equal for men and women.
Four of the five fastest male marathon runners in history are set to grace the London streets as the prestigious race returns to its April date on the calendar for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Three-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time world champion Kenenisa Bekele heads the men’s field which also includes the likes of Kelvin Kiptum, Birhanu Legese, Mosinet Geremew and Amos Kipruto. British running legend Mo Farah is set for a home farewell run and is competing in his last ever elite London Marathon.
The women elite side will be led by defending champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw, world record holder Brigid Kosgei and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir.
The winners of both the men’s and women’s races will take home £44,260 ($55,000) which is up from £39,000 when the last London Marathon took place in October. Prizes will go down to the top 10 in both the men’s and women’s categories.
Previously there has also been a sum of prize money divided between men who run under sub-2:05.00 and women sub-2:18:00. A further £17,600 has also been on offer for anyone who won their event in a record time, but this may also have been increased this year.
Olympic gold medallist Sifan Hassan is “curious” about her debut marathon tomorrow in London, a run she describes as a test that is likely to inform how she approaches next year’s Paris Olympics.
The 30-year-old Dutch middle-distance runner also admits to a feeling many of the 45,000 amateur runners tackling the London Marathon will sympathise with.
“My feeling is nervous, and curious at the same time,” Hassan told Reuters in an interview. “Can I defeat the marathon, or is it going to defeat me?”
After gruelling training runs without food or water during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, Hassan said she has no particular time in mind for finishing the race.
At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Hassan dominated the track with a rare triple, winning gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres as well as bronze in the 1,500.
If Sunday goes well, she may consider another marathon in the autumn, she said, adding that she still loved track and didn’t yet know how her 2024 Paris Olympics plans might change.
In what race organisers say is the greatest ever elite women’s field at the London Marathon, Hassan is up against defending champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw, world record holder Brigid Kosgei and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir.
Organisers say they see the world record of 2:14:04, set by Kosgei in Chicago in 2019, being broken on Sunday.
“In terms of who’s going to win, I do not have a clue,” race director Hugh Brasher said.
“If that comes down to a sprint finish… I think it’s going to be fascinating.”
Britain’s reigning Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Eilish McColgan was also set to run her debut marathon in the event won by her mother Liz in 1996, but she has been forced to pull out of the race due to a knee injury.
“I’ve tried, trust me, but it’s just got to the point where it’s not going to be feasible to run a marathon this weekend,” said the 32-year-old McColgan, who had also withdrawn from the race last year due to a medical issue.
“There’s been a few factors… A whole host of things in the last three weeks have built up and this knee thing has been the final crack in the armour.
“It’s frustrating because I can almost see the start line. I’ve shed a lot of tears the last couple of days, but there is always going to be another London Marathon.”
Kosgei believes she can still win a third London title despite recent injury problems.
The Kenyan, who won the London Marathon in 2019 and again
in 2020, when only elite participants were allowed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, enters Sunday’s race as the world-record holder for women running in a mixed-sex marathon.
“I was well prepared, but then some weeks back I was suffering in my hamstring and in my knee, but I think the injury has become not so bad, that is why I tried to come here,” Kosgei told a pre-race press conference.
Kosgei added: “The field is not easy, it is very strong because everyone wants to be a winner, so we will all do our best on Sunday.”
Defending champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw won last year’s race in October in a time of two hours 17 minutes and 26 seconds, the third fastest at the event, to finish ahead of previous winner Joyciline Jepkosgei, a Kenyan.
Yehualaw, a 23-year-old Ethiopian, is aiming to follow Kosgei in winning back-to-back London Marathon titles in a strong field that also includes reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir, a Kenyan.
“I am so happy to be back in London, a beautiful city with a great competition. My preparation has gone very well,” said Yehualaw. “I want to defend my title on Sunday and am ready to do my best.”
“I am in good shape. I am just focused on a long run like before (rather than any specific time), and I like that.”
Jepchirchir, who also won the 2021 New York Marathon and last year’s Boston Marathon, feels the world record might be under threat tomorrow.
“The ladies are strong and if the weather will be fine on Sunday, I think the (world) record might go,” she said.
Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Eilish McColgan has withdrawn from Sunday’s London with a knee injury following a sponsor row.
McColgan who watched her mum Liz McColgan win the 1996 edition was forced withdraw from the event on Friday because of a knee issue, which she says was partially caused by the ‘stress’ of a ‘disagreement’ with London Marathon bosses.
The 32-year-old signed a new partnership with nutrition brand Science in Sport, who are a rival of Lucozade, the official sports drink of the race.
‘I’ve had a few disagreements with London Marathon regarding the contractual side of things,’ revealed McColgan. ‘I was told I wouldn’t be allowed to race due to a sponsor clash between myself and London Marathon’s sponsor.
McColgan also disclosed she tore her hamstring when she broke the British record at the Berlin Half Marathon three weeks ago – but insists she had returned to fitness before her knee problem this week.
Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands will be making her marathon debut on Sunday. She will come up against world-record holder Brigid Kosgei, Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchi and the defending champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw.
AW speaks exclusively to four British athletes who reveal their distressing experiences at the start of the Valencia 10km
The last thing you’d expect as an athlete going to a race is to fear for your own safety.
That is what happened at the Valencia 10km on Sunday (Jan 15). As soon as the gun went off at the event – a World Athletics labelled road race – athletes’ attention quickly turned to the wellbeing of themselves and others around them rather than the personal bests they were striving for.
Four British athletes have now described their experience of the event to AW and said that there was a “general consensus of panic” among the packed pens before the beginning of the race, to elite women “screaming on the floor” as they were trampled on by helpless runners who fell like skittles.
Only one of the four British runners that spoke to AW completed the race and all of them have various degrees of marks, from small scratches to swollen and bruised knees.
These are athletes who are not at a world elite level and largely funded their own trip, including flights and accommodation, to one of the fastest 10km races in the world. The aim was obvious. To record a time in Valencia that could lead to raising their profile and potentially getting bigger and better sponsorships.
It’s a quick course. The men’s world 10km record and second fastest time ever were both set in the Spanish city while half of the fastest 10 women’s times in history over the distance were recorded on the route.
There’s a reason why the Valencia 10km set the entry limit for the race at 12,000. It’s popular. Up to 100 Brits made the trip to Spain and quite a few, including Samantha Harrison, achieved personal bests.
However, many did not finish and dreams were dashed. Others did but it was out of pride more than striving for perfection.
An “inevitability” from the race build-up
Elle Twentyman, 28, went to Valencia to improve her 10km personal best of 33:30. The 2021 Brighton Marathon 10km winner was hoping to start off 2023 with a bang and forget about the experience of her last race over the distance, the Corrida Pedestre Internationale de Houilles on December 30.
The French event, which had a strict entry standard of sub-44 minutes for women and sub-37 minutes for men, had a giant tree just metres from the start line obscuring athletes. Such an object in close proximity to hundreds of runners made it impossible for some not to fall and Twentyman ended up on the floor.
She hit her head and told AW that the race organiser got in touch to ask whether she’d been involved in the incident.
Such vivid memories came back to Twentyman as she was preparing to start the Valencia 10km. Pinned together “like sardines”, athletes struggled to move either their hands or legs as they waited anxiously for the event to begin.
“Initially, they had separate areas. So about 20m for the elites and 50m for the sub-elites and then separate pens going back for sub-31, sub-33 and sub-35 for example,” Twentyman recalls.
“Theoretically, it worked but the men in the sub-elite pen were so eager to get forward to the next pen ahead of them then they were pushing up against the tape.
“I don’t want to sound dramatic but because it happened to me before, I almost felt like I was going to have a panic attack as I was completely trapped. I had nowhere to move my legs or arms and this guy was pushing up behind me.
“Even at that point there were men still trying to get in front of you and although there was no space they wanted to push in front of me. That pressure kept coming from behind but we were then pushed backwards.
“If you don’t have space to push your legs up, you’re going to go into the person in front of you which causes them to trip. I felt it [the impending crush] was unavoidable.”
In among the thousands of runners about to take on the Valencia 10km was Sarah Astin, 29, who finished 16th representing the Isle of Man in the 5000m at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Like most of the athletes, she was expecting a fast time but attention soon turned to the crowd around her instead of the race itself. Due to one of the athletes on the England team pulling out, Astin was promoted to the world elite pen. As a runner with a 10km best of 33:17, she thought it was strange that she was placed in front of elite men who could run over two minutes quicker than her.
“That scared me a little bit beforehand anyway and I was slightly confused why I would start in front of the elite men,” she says. I didn’t want to do that. I’d never been on a start line like that. Everyone was scared and it wasn’t great.
“On a start line you usually have your feet separated and ready to go but my feet were touching and we were literally waddling. They wanted to get going at 9.30am. I didn’t expect them to start.”
Another one of the British athletes in the mix was Dan Studley, 31, who won the 2019 Windsor Half Marathon and competed in the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships.
Like everyone else, he couldn’t move. “I was three or four rows back and I could barely breathe on the start line,” he tells AW. “You couldn’t move to press your watch and I was completely crushed. Then three steps later when the race kicked off there were bodies all over the floor.
“There was no personal space. You were just stood with your feet together and arms by your side. When you’re trying to get a personal best in the 10km, you want to be ready and set. It’s stupid really.
“The elite athletes weren’t protected. I appreciate there were a lot of them and it was a pretty unique race. The race director was hoping for a 100 sub-30 runners. If those were safeguarded at the front and given a few metres I think the situation would’ve been fine.”
The final British athlete that we spoke to was Josh Lunn. He, alongside Twentyman, Astin and Studley, all corroborate that while the athletes were split into certain pens based on their ability before the start of the race, the tape separating the pens either “broke” or was “left unmanned” and athletes poured forward into the next pen. One after the other.
At the front the world elite, including world 10km record-holder Yalemzerf Yehualaw, 23, were stretching out ahead of the big race. Just before the gun went off, as you can see on the Valencia 10km stream, the world elite men were pushed back behind the tape which marked the start line.
The momentum of those athletes getting moved combined with athletes from pens further back breaking through the tapes separating each section, meant runners, roughly 10m back from the start line, saw any space around them evaporate.
“There were two guys with some tape and there was one athlete who wanted to go under the tape when the two men were there,” Lunn says. “Probably five minutes before the start they moved away and one of the athletes jumped underneath the tape.
“That set a whole chain reaction off where everyone kind of panicked and they followed. So you’ve got all of the guys in the second pen at the front of the first pen. I remember seeing Sarah [Astin] and Lucy [Reid] who turned around and went ‘oh my god, what’s happening’.
“You had to go forward as everyone was pushing from behind. So we ended up at the front of the start line. I don’t know how many people were in that first pen but they had pushed all of those people to the front and there wasn’t any space.”
Studley’s experience of runners getting into pens that didn’t match their vest number is similar. “People did what they wanted,” he adds. “They were jumping under the tape. It would’ve been very easy to be recreational runner and be on the front row with world record-holders. It was too easy to get somewhere you shouldn’t have been.
“I was behind some tape, waiting about 10m behind the start line and they just poured forward. The world elites then had to come back on the start line.”
The gun goes off and carnage ensues
At 9.30am the race began and thousands of runners leapt out of their position. Success stories followed. The most notable performance from the event was Yehualaw giving her own world 10km record a fright. The Ethiopian clocked 29:19, missing the illustrious mark by just five seconds.
Behind the first few rows of runners was a different story though. Given the close proximity of the athletes it only took one to fall to create a cacophony of chaos.
All four British athletes told AW that they only took “between three and four steps” before falling into the bodies that had already hit the ground in front of them.
“As I tried to get up I immediately got pushed back on to the ground and that happened around six or seven times,” reflects Lunn. “The worst thing was that there was a girl on the floor next to me was screaming.
“I genuinely felt like I was being crushed. That’s when I got worried as I didn’t know when it would stop and I couldn’t get up. That was not great.
“Those thoughts [asphyxiation] went through my head. It happens very quickly. I didn’t see the other side of the road but I definitely knew there were one or two people below me and three of four people on top of me.
“I don’t think my breathing was any different to normal but I was just sort of panicking. Straight after it didn’t feel any different and I was just thinking I’d lost a lot of time and my mind was on the racing.”
The organisers, on Instagram, stated: “According to our reports, no one suffered serious injuries. Some runners suffered bruises and one elite Brazilian athlete a dislocated shoulder.”
For Twentyman, the crush was déjà vu from her last 10km race in Paris.
“The falling down is one thing and the initial ‘oh my god, that hurt’ but then the scary part is that you just can’t get back up as you had hundreds of people that keep running over the top of you,” she adds.
“They just stand on you, run on you and push you back down.
“I didn’t really realise how much my back and back hurt from it after I tried to lie down and thought ‘this really hurts’. My first thought was ‘oh no, not again’. I was thinking ‘what was I doing wrong?’ and in a way found it a relief to watch the video and that it was nothing to do with me. You don’t really process it at the time.”
Studley told AW he had raced for over 20 years and this was the first time in his life he failed to finish. Battered and bruised, he got up to find his race bib had been ripped off his running vest.
Studley, Lunn and Twentyman all recount how they spent between “20-30 seconds on the floor” and tried and failed to get up nearly “half a dozen times”.
“I caught up with Sam [Harrison] but my back started really aching and my back and front numbers got ripped off,” Studley says. “All my adrenaline drained when I started moving I was so flat. I used all my energy trying to get up.
“I’m surprised [no one was critically injured]. The way I was getting crushed on the floor, it would have only needed one runner to stamp on my head instead of my back to create a potentially very serious incident.
Astin however was more fortunate and escaped the melee with just a few scratches. She however pulled out of the race around the 6km mark.
“I was just sprinting and thinking ‘get me out of here’. As I started in front of these fast guys everyone was still flying past me because I started in the completely wrong part of the race,” she recalls. “I understand the girls aiming for world records but a lot of girls didn’t want to be there and we were running blind.
“I was actually sick the day before and probably shouldn’t have started the race but I was fine on the morning. I genuinely think I got further in the race than I would’ve done because of the adrenaline!”
Lessons to be learnt
The key question is how do you help prevent a situation like this from occurring again?
While all four athletes suffered similarly distressing experiences at the start of the Valencia 10km, they each have slightly different solutions on how to mitigate such events in the future. All ideas which seem sensible.
“We needed more segregation between the waves,” Lunn says. “If you had a bit more space or people starting on the other side of the road I think you would’ve been fine.
“If those two men hadn’t moved and held everybody back then the risk would’ve been lower. The other thing that I found is that because you had so many high level people was that when you mix in them in it can be quite dangerous.”
Astin, who helps organise races outside of her running, even suggests that the race could’ve been stopped and restarted by “marshals with radios 200m away from the line” but is sympathetic with organisers who “wouldn’t have known how to react to such an incident”.
“I know there are 12,000 people on the start line but you could’ve got everyone back if you started 10 or 15 minutes later,” she adds. “They could’ve even had a team of people 100m to 200m down the route on the radio just crossing the road and saying to the runners that they have to stop because they need to restart the race.”
Twentyman, who finished the race in 33:30, will hope that her next 10km is not as rough as her last couple. Recharging the batteries is now on the agenda but she says “walking is painful and going down the stairs is difficult”. Twentyman hopes that the next Valencia 10km includes a wider start line.
Studley, who spent £300 to run in Valencia, wants protection for elite athletes and better policing of the pens.
When approached for comment, World Athletics said: “The safety of runners participating in World Athletics Label races is our utmost priority.
“We will liaise with the race organisers to assess the incident and discuss the safeguards they will put in place to prevent any such incidents in the future.”
In their statement on Instagram, the organisers added: “We apologise for any inconvenience this incident may have caused to all involved. The safety of the participants is most important.
“The organisation had arranged a thoroughly distributed exit so that runners could be placed according to their intended marks in the enrolment process.
“Nevertheless, it didn’t all go well. Due to the density of runners, we absolutely understand that we need to step up the improvement measures again at this point. We will study from now on possible changes in the exit for the welfare and safety of riders, which is our utmost interest.
“After this incident, the race went on with total normality with about 10,000 participants reaching the finish line.”
Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw failed to lower her own world 10km women record but she managed to break the race course record at the at the 10K Valencia Ibercaja held on Sunday (15) in Paseo de la Alameda, Valencia.
The 23 year-old who holds the World 10km record of 29:14 set in Castellón eeleven months ago, ran the better part of the race with the pacers but dropped them at the last 500m tosurge alone alone cutting the tape in new course record of 29:18.
World 3000m steeplechase record holder, Beatrice Chepkoech will battle for the top honors at the 58th edition of the San Silvestre Vallecana 10km Road Race that will be held on Saturday (31) in Madrid, Spain.
The 31 year-old who is also the 2019 World 3000m steeplechase chase champion, will face off with a deep elite field on the iconic New Year’s Eve 10km race that includes African 10,000m Champion, Tsehay Gemechu from Ethiopia and the 2016 and 2018 World 800m indoor champion, Francine Niyonsaba from Burundi.
Chepkoech who is also the 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist will have to get past the 24-year-old Gemechu, who comes to this race with huge expectations of extending the Ethiopian winning streak after Helen Bekele Tola, Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Degitu Azimeraw won the previous three editions.
Gemechu was placed fourth place at the 2019 world championships in 5000m outdoors, a sixth place at the world cross country championships of the same year. Gemechu who comes to this race with a life time best of 30:15 has set her focus on the three years course record of 29:54 set by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei.
Another title contender is the two-time world indoor champion, Francine Niyonsaba, who became the first athlete to be identified as having DSD to officially break a world record when clocking 5:21.26 for 2000m, will be on the start line as she fights the two. The 29 year-old made her intent known two weeks ago when she took the Cross Internacional de Venta de Banos title. Niyonsaba who will be making her debut over the distance a holds a life time best in 5000m of 14:25.34 that she got last year at the Allianz Memorial Van Damme where she took the honors.
Double World U20 bronze medallist, Prisca Chesang from Uganda will also fight for the top title. The 19-year-old Olympian comes to this race with a personal best of 32:42 that she got this year at the TCS World 10K Bengaluru where she finished in tenth place.
Reigning Ethiopian 10km champion Mahlet Mulugeta has also been added to the elite list as she prepares to cause a storm at the race.
Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir will be the chief guest at the 22nd edition of the Great Ethiopian Run 10km Road Race that will be held on Sunday (20) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The reigning Boston marathon champion will be flagging off the race that was first envisioned by Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie, Peter Middlebrook and Abi Masefield in 2000, following Haile’s return from the 2000 Summer Olympics
The former world half marathon record holder will be accompanied by two-time Boston Marathon champion Moses Tanui, who is the organizer of the Eldoret City Marathon.
iin April this year, Eldoret City Marathon and the Great Ethiopian Run signed a partnership to exchange the best practices in race organisation between the two races. The partnership was founded by the two legends, Tanai and Gebrselassie.
The course record for the men’s race is 28:18.61 and was set in 2006 by the 2007 All-Africa Games gold medallist, Deriba Merga while the women record of 31:55 was set in 2019 by World Half Marathon bronze medallist, Yalemzerf Yehualaw.
World Half Marathon bronze medallist, Yalemzerf Yehualaw beat the defending champion Joyciline Jepkosgei to win her first ever London Marathon held on Sunday (02) in London.
The 23 year-old who made her marathon debut just six months ago, broke away from the leading group with 2km remaining as she surged ahead in a more composed way crossing the finish line with the third fastest time of 2:17.06.
The defending champion Jepkosgei was forced to settle in second as she crossed the finish line a time of 2:18.06 with Alemu Megertu from Ethiopia who finished fifth at the 2020 edition closing the podium three finishes in 2:18.32.
World Athletics Championships silver medallist, Judith Jeptum Korir came home in fourth with her second fastest time of 2:18.43 with Kenyan born but now trading for Romania, Joan Chelimo Melly finishing in fifth in 2:19.27.
The 2019 Berlin Marathon winner and the last year’s third finisher, Ashete Bekere from Ethiopia finished in fifth place in her third fastest time of 2:19.30.
The 2022 Boston Marathon bronze medallist Mary Wacera Ngugi lived to her own personal expectation as she crossed the finish line in sixth place with a new personal best of 2:20.22.
Ethiopians Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Jemal Yimer will be heading back to defend their titles at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon that will be held on August 28, 2022 in Antrim, Northern Ireland.
The organisers have unveiled the line-up of the elite-level event that will start in Larne at 9am on Sunday, August 28 has attracted some of the world’s best athletes.
Race director and former international track star James McIlroy said: “This will be one of the best races held anywhere in the world this year. We have top class athletes attending the event from all over the world, including last year’s winners Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Jemal Yimer.
“Our race is one of the fastest in the world. It’s a great opportunity for world class runners to set personal bests. It’s also a great spectator event, as it is a rare opportunity for spectators to see world class athletes competing in Northern Ireland.”
In the women’s race, Yehualaw will be joined by fellow Ethiopians Tsehay Gemechu and Gete Alemayheu, Kenyan Beatrice Chepkemoi Mutai and American Jane Bareikis. The top Northern Irish competitors include Bangor’s Jessica Craig, Emma Mitchell of Banbridge and Aghagallon’s Fionnuala Ross.
The men’s elite race will see one of the biggest elite fields ever assembled in the United Kingdom with 78 runners taking their place on the start with a total of 18 nations.
Seven competitors have previously broken the 60-minute barrier. Last year’s winner Yimer will race against fellow Ethiopians Tesfahun Akalnew and Huseydin Mohamed. Yimer previously posted the fastest debut half-marathon of all time and has a personal best time of 58 minutes and 33 seconds.
Team GB brothers Callum and Derek Hawkins will make the trip to Larne, as will Irish Olympian Stephen Scullion.
The weekend’s events will kick off with a kids’ race on Saturday evening, followed by the Classic Street mile, in which former Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie and ex-Team GB star Jo Pavey will participate.