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Farah shocked as London Marathon king Kipchoge loses cloak of invincibility

Mo Farah spoke of his shock after Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathon runner of them all, had the cloak of invincibility ripped from his back.

The 8/1-ON favourite had won all four of his London Marathons and made history by breaking two hours on his last outing.

Yet in the biggest sensation in 40 years of the race he could finish only eighth behind Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata in a rain-drenched showdown.

“It was a shock for all of us,” said Farah. “We had expected him to win by miles, considering what times he has run.

“But that happens. We are human. We make it look easy but it’s sport. You can have an off-day, you can get things wrong.”



Still, nobody saw it coming, not after world number two Kenenisa Bekele’s late withdrawal appeared to turn it into a one-horse race.

Instead a runner primed for the race by Bekele sprang the seismic shock, Kitata beating Vincent Kipchumba in a sprint finish to stop the clock on two hours 5.41 seconds.

Kipchoge blamed a blocked right ear and said his hip and leg really cramped. But a man who had won 11 of his previous 12 marathons did not overplay the excuses.


“It’s not the end of the world,” insisted the Kenyan, whose 1:59 marathon time a year ago was likened in historical significance to the moon landing and Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile.

“I’m really disappointed but it’s not suicide for Eliud Kipchoge to be beaten. It’s not going to a tree and hanging myself. This is sport and we need to embrace it.”

It looked likely to be a routine day when Brigid Kosgei, the women’s world record holder, easily retained her title in 2:18:58.


And when Kipchoge smiled beneath a baseball cap during the first half of a race run at a fairly gentle pace, even his lead rivals felt it was just a matter of time.

Instead it was Kitata, whose training camp was shut from March to June, who splashed away from the field to leave Kipchoge (2:06:49) tasting defeat for the first time since 2013.

Farah, meanwhile, succeeded in his ambition of pace-making a Brit to an Olympic qualifying time, with Ben Connor achieving the feat in his first marathon, behind newly crowned national champion Jonny Mellor (2:10:38).

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Athletics

Brendan Foster hails Blitz spirit of London for not giving up on Marathon

Brendan Foster has hailed the Blitz spirit of organisers in refusing to surrender to the pandemic and pressing ahead with tomorrow’s London Marathon.

Every major city marathon from Berlin to Chicago, Boston to New York, has been called off in this coronavirus-blighted year.

Yet London has found a way to stage an elite race in a bio-secure bubble in the nation’s capital – and even got Mo Farah to run as a pacemaker for Brits in search of an Olympic qualifying time.

“All the events around the world have been cancelled, but not London. It’s brilliant,” said Foster, for so long the BBC’s voice of athletics.

“As Jos Hermens, the manager of Eliud Kipchoge, said to me: “Typical London. The world’s collapsing around them and they keep going.”

For the first time in the event’s 40 years the mass participation race will not take place alongside the stars of the sport, with 45,000 instead running a virtual race on their own individual routes.

Kipchoge is odds-on to win his fifth London title – though his first over 19.7 laps of a screened-off course in St James’s Park – after the shock withdrawal last night of world number 2 Kenenisa Bekele due to a calf injury.


“It’s been more than a marathon effort to get it on,” added Foster, whose own Great North Run was unable to go ahead.

“The coronavirus is about keeping people apart whereas the London Marathon is about bringing people together, so they’ve had every hurdle thrown at them.

"It’s amazing that they’ve stuck at it and the athletes should be extremely grateful to them, as I know they are.”


Kipchoge, whose race is sandwiched between elite women's event and wheelchair contests, declared his intention to: "bring hope to the world".

The Kenyan took time out from his final preparations to praise Farah for showing a “massive heart” in agreeing to help his compatriots achieve their Tokyo goal.

“I want to say thank you to Mo for agreeing to pace the race,” he said. “That’s a big heart, a big show of humanity.

“People will remember him for this and those who he helps qualify for the Olympics will remember him forever.”

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