Queen of the track, Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot claimed her maiden major marathon when she won this year’s London Marathon in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 31 seconds on Sunday.
Cheruiyot, who finished fourth last year in 2:23:50, over took defending champion Mary Keitany just after the 35km mark before cruising to her second ever marathon victory in personal best.
The 34-year-old Cheruiyot, who won Frankfurt Marathon last year in personal best 2:23:25, edged out the 2017 Honolulu Marathon champion Brigid Kosgey from Kenya to second place also in personal best 2:20:12.
Tadelech Bekele from Ethiopia finished third in 2:21:39 as Berlin Marathon champion Gladys Cherono from Kenya, beat Keitany on the home straight to settle fourth.
Keitany, who was eying her fourth London victory came in fifth in 2:24:28.
Keitany won last year’s race in a World Record (only women) in 2:17:01.
The victory by Cheruiyot, the 2016 Rio Olympic Games 5,000m champion, was a major surprise, what with Keitany having been tipped to break the World Record time of 2:15:25 set by Paula Radcliffe of Britain at the same course in 2003.
Cheruiyot now becomes the fourth fastest woman in marathon history after Radcliffe (2:15:25), Keitany (2:17:01) and Dibaba (2:17:56). She is the 2016 Rio Olympocs 5,000m champion, having also won the 2011 World 10,000m and 5,000m titles. She also has the 20009 World 5,000m and 2015 World 10,000m titles.
"The reason it was so good for me today was because I started slowly. I didn't go with the faster group because the faster group was quicker than I was at the start," Cheruiyot told the BBC.
"I didn't want to race against anybody, I wanted to race alone. So I raced like that."
The race turned out to be a thriller when Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, who broke away early alongside Keitany, threw in the towel just after the 30km mark.
That is also the moment Keitany started running out of gas with Cheruiyot, who is fondly known as Pocket Rocket took charge in the race that had male pacesetters.
Keitany had cruised past the halfway mark alone in 67:16 minutes well inside the World Record by 30 seconds and the 30km mark in 1:37:03.
Dibaba trailed Keitany by 23 seconds at halfway mark and 54 seconds at 30km mark and the race tightened on both athletes with the pacesetters encouraging them on. Cheruiyot was being Keitany by 40 seconds at halfway.
The race had been billed as a battle between Keitany and Dibaba, who had been tipped to break Radcliffe’s impenetrable record that had stood for 15 years.
Indeed, Keitany and Dibaba took the warm morning conditions with a brutal attack with some fast-pace backed up by four male pacesetters.
The race curved into three groups in the opening kilometre. Keitany and Dibaba made the first group with four pacesetters with Kosgei and Cherono forming the second batch.
Cheruiyot and Bekele were in the third group.
Dibaba and Keitany covered the first 5km in 15.46 minutes and 15km in 47:46 minutes. It was after 16kms that Dibaba started to drop with Keitany stepping on her gas pedal to zoom past the stage in 51:16 minutes.
Keitany would slow down with 17 kilometres to go as the race started to take tall as Kosgei and Cheruiyot, aided by the pacesetters, worked their way up.
Cheruiyot got to win Sh 5.5million but missed out on Sh 10million bonus after failing to a sub 2:18:00 my 31 seconds. Kosgei got Sh 3 million, Bekele Sh 2.29 million and Cherono Sh 1.53 million.
1. Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:18:31
2. Brigid Kosgei (KEN) 2:20:13
3. Tadelech Bekele(ETH) 2:21:40
4. Gladys Cherono (KEN) 2:24:10
5. Mary Keitany, (KEN) 2:24:27
6. Rose Chelimo (BRN) 2:26:03
7. Mare Dibaba, (ETH) 2:27:45
8. Lily Partridge (GBR) 2:29:24
9. Tracy Barlow (GBR) 2:32:09
10. Stephanie Bruce (USA) 2:32:28