Tue. May 17th, 2022

Sisay Lemma has always been a marathon bridesmaid, never the bride. So after burning a high-quality marathon field of London, it was only natural for the 30-year-old Ethiopian to ease in the last few steps to bask in the applause of the audience and give a royal wave of appreciation.

But shortly after crossing the line in 2 hours 4 minutes 1 second – 27 seconds ahead of Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba on second – he was struck by a painful realization. The last two seconds had cost him $ 25,000 (£ 18,500) in extra time bonuses he would have earned for going under 2 hours 4 minutes.

The most expensive wave in athletics history? Quite possibly. To make matters worse, Lemma was also unable to celebrate her shock victory on the podium. Because his Ethiopian Kinde Atanaw failed a Covid-19 test and was withdrawn from the race on Saturday — and was also considered one of his close contacts — Lemma was immediately brought back to his hotel.

This led to a strange sight of his agent, the 67-year-old Italian Gianni Demadonna, standing on the podium holding flowers and looking very confused. He was not alone.

Lemma later said: “Today was the biggest victory of my career and a dream come true for me. I finished third last year here in London, and returning 12 months later and winning this great race is an incredible and proud moment.

“Of course I would have loved to have celebrated my victory by standing at the top of the podium, but I fully understand why this was not possible. We live in challenging times and I am just grateful that it was possible for me to run today and experience the greatest moment of my career. ”

Event director Hugh Brasher said the decision was made on the advice of Public Health England but that it had been safe for Lemma to start as he had passed a Covid test. In any case, the Ethiopian will be well compensated – not only with the first prize of $ 55,000, but an additional $ 50,000 for driving under 2 hours 5 minutes. But not getting the $ 75,000 offered for a sub -2:04 marathon – because of that wave – will definitely continue to sting.

There were also smiles from Phil Sesemann, a junior doctor in the NHS who came home seventh in his debut marathon to finish as the best male Briton. For the most part, his time of 2:12:58 also fell below the qualifying standard for the Commonwealth and European Championships in 2022.

Kenya's Joyciline Jepkosgei crosses the border to win the women's race at the 2021 London Marathon.
Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei crosses the border to win the women’s race at the 2021 London Marathon. Photo: Glyn Kirk / AFP / Getty Images

In the women’s race, an 11-strong package was together on the halfway stage in 68:51, before five runners-world record holder Brigid Kosgei, Joyciline Jepkosgei, Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, Ashete Bekere and Degitu Azimeraw broke ready. They were still together until the nearly 22-mile mark when Jepkosgei, who was on fresher legs than many of his rivals after missing the Olympics in Tokyo, stood ready to win in 2: 17: 43-15 seconds ahead of Azimeraw. It was the seventh fastest time in history. “This is the greatest achievement of my career,” Jepkosgei said. “I know London is a big race in the world, so I’m so happy. I dedicate this victory to my child and my coach. ”

But one of the most uplifting performances of the day came from Charlotte Purdue, who ran a stormy second half of the race to get home in 2:23:26, 10th overall and the third fastest time by a British woman in history. Afterwards, she lifted her finger triumphantly. But it could easily have been a forefinger pointing in the direction of British athletics voters who, oddly enough, left her from the Olympics in Tokyo after calling her harmful.

“I certainly feel justified,” she said. “I feel like I deserved to be in Tokyo. I was obviously not selected, but I put all my emphasis on this race as soon as I was not. This was my Olympics. ”

Her brilliant performance was also just 14 seconds outside second-placed British women’s Mara Yamauchi, who suggested it was only a matter of time before she broke it.

Purdue completely agrees. “It’s annoying, but I feel like I can still get it. I think if I had to run, maybe in a mixed race with male pacers, it would help because after 30k I didn’t really have any. My partner Adam has said that he would drive me to a marathon and that he would run every step that I have never had before. ”

Her race means she qualifies for the World Championships in Eugene next year. However, Purdue suggested she could go to the Commonwealth Games or the European Championships instead of increasing her medal prospects. “If I could get a medal from the Europeans, would it be better than the top 10 in the world? I do not know. I talked to Mara and she said that if she had a regret, it was that she did not go to champs where she could get a medal. ”

In the wheelchair races, Switzerland’s Marcel Hug and Manuela Schär both set track records as they won men and women. Britain’s David Weir finished third in the men’s race.

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