The Flora London Marathon is a race of extremes and surprises and the 2007 race was no exception. After last year’s continuous drizzle, runners knew they were in for a hard time with the sun shining strongly from the outset and temperatures set to rise above 20C as the day wore on.
Suffering along with the masses were two strong fields in the men’s and women’s races, though there were some surprise dropouts – Haile Gebrselassie and Stefano Baldini notably out of contention by the final 10km – and, with Paula Radcliffe away for the second year running, a female winner that few could have predicted in the Chinese athlete Chunxiu Zhou.
There were two very familiar faces at the front of the men’s race, though. The 2005 Flora London Marathon winner, Martin Lel, snatched the title back from fellow Kenyan Felix Limo after learning from"last year’s mistake" – allowing Limo to out-kick him at the finish.
"At the last mile this year I was afraid because last time I lost through the kick," says Lel, "but this time I had some energy left. I looked around and there were still five or six athletes around me, so I decided to go and see who would go with me."
Limo was philosophical about his third-place finish."I have to smile because this was a very competitive race and I almost fell down at 35km. Disappointment is part of life so you have to be happy. I live to fight another day."
In second place, the Moroccan Abderrahim Goumri – coached by the 1999 and 2001 winner Abdelkader El Mouaziz –finished his debut marathon in style just three seconds behind the leader. "I came here scared because I did not have a big result in Kenya [at the World Cross-Country Champs]. But after half way I knew I could just push the last kilometres. I only had about five months of training for this so I think if I stay together with my coach we can have some good results in future."
Further down the field Ryan Hall ran an impressive 2:08:24, setting a new American record for a debut marathon. Dan Robinson was the first British man and was pleased with his performance, while Haile Gebrselassie had another FLM disappointment, pulling out at 20 miles with a stitch.
Chunxiu Zhou became the first Chinese woman to win the Flora London Marathon – or any World Marathon Major – and her strong finish offered a glimpse of what might come from the home team at the Beijing Olympics next year. "It has always been my ambition to win the London Marathon," said Zhou."Before 2002 I had not trained for the marathon and I was lacking in experience. This is a great opportunity to learn from other athletes. For the first 30km I was just following other people then I was trying to the best of my ability and ran fast. I think if the weather was colder I could achieve better results."
In second place, Gete Wami had unfinished business. "I came here after the birth of my daughter in 2004 and had some injury problems, so dropped out, so it was my dream to achieve a good result in London. I’m happy with my result. It was the first time I’ve met Zhou in a race so I didn’t know what her plan would be, so I was very surprised by her fast finish."
Constantina Dita came third but admitted that, like thousands of other runners, she suffered in the conditions. "I came here three years ago and it was raining and cold. I don’t like the hot weather," she said, but added: "I’m happy because before the race I thought I would like to come in the top three. At 40km I saw Lornah Kiplagat was tiring and I could pass her. When I see somebody in front of me I feel stronger."
Mara Yamauchi ran a very good race considering the heat, finishing in sixth place just outside her PB, while Liz Yelling also reached the top 10 and qualified for next year’s Olympics, finishing eighth in 2:30:44.
Top 10 men
1 Martin Lel (Ken) 2:07:41
2 Abderrahim Goumri (Mar) 2:07:44
3 Felix Limo (Ken) 2:07:47
4 Jaouad Gharib (Mar) 2:07:54
5 Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 2:07:56
6 Paul Tergat (Ken) 2:08:06
7 Ryan Hall (USA) 2:08:24
8 Marilson Gomes (Bra) 2:08:37
9 Dan Robinson (Gbr) 2:14:14
10 Andi Jones (Gbr) 2:17:49
Top 10 women
1 Chunxiu Zhou (Chn) 2:20:38
2 Gete Wami (Eth) 2:21:45
3 Constantina Tomescu-Dita (Rom) 2:23:55
4 Salina Kosgei (Ken) 2:24:13
5 Lornah Kiplagat (Ned) 2:24:46
6 Mara Yamauchi (Gbr) 2:25:41
7 Benita Johnson (Aus) 2:29:47
8 Liz Yelling (Gbr) 2:30:44
9 Inga Abitova (Rus) 2:34:25
10 Berhana Adere (Eth) 2:39:11