Athletics: El Mouaziz upsets elite field

London Marathon: Moroccan leaves challengers behind while Chepchumba earns $125,000 bonus
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The Independent Online
DID ABDEL Kader El Mouaziz win yesterday's Flora London Marathon, or did arguably the strongest men's field ever assembled lose it? The question was an academic one for the 30-year-old Moroccan, who picked up the $55,000 (pounds 34,000) first prize in a personal best of 2hr 7min 57sec after running alone over the final 10 miles.

But the organisers, who spent the best part of $2m on bringing together the Olympic champion Josiah Thugwane, the world and defending champion Abel Anton, the world's fastest marathoner, Ronaldo Da Costa and the double London winner, Antonio Pinto, could have been forgiven an air of bemusement after a race which, effectively, never happened.

Unaware of the extent of El Mouaziz's lead, the chasing group were ultimately confounded by their own caution. With three miles remaining, Pinto broke away in a desperate attempt to bridge the gap, but it was too late. El Mouaziz, who a year earlier had been caught by Anton in the final 600 yards having broken away after 20 miles, had enough in reserve this time, despite his haggard appearance and backward glances in the final stages.

Timing also proved crucial for the women's winner, Joyce Chepchumba of Kenya, who picked up an extra $125,000 for a world's best by a margin of just two seconds with her time of 2:23:22.

Unusually for a world best, it was not even the fastest time of the day. That belonged to Chepchumba's training partner and compatriot, Tegla Loroupe, who won yesterday's Rotterdam Marathon in 2:22:48. From this year, however, the London organisers are offering their world's best bonus solely to times recorded in women only races. Accordingly, Chepchumba had to better the time that stood 12th on the all time list to earn her extra cash, the 2:23:24 recorded in Osaka last year by Lidia Simon, of Romania.

It was a costly point of principle for London - but the Marathon's chief executive, Nick Bitel, insisted that his event was not alone in believing that records set by women in mixed races should not be recognised. There was a widespread feeling that the spirit of the event had been infringed by Loroupe's world best of 2:20:47 at last year's Rotterdam Marathon, where she was paced all the way by male runners who also handed her drinks. It moved the race director of the Chicago Marathon to describe Rotterdam as an event rather than a race.

A proposal by UK Athletics that there should be a minimum of half an hour's gap between the start of men's and women's marathon races has been accepted by the International Amateur Athletic Federation's road-running and cross-country committee, and will be considered by the full IAAF Council in Seville this August.

Although she complained of a stomach upset during the middle of the race, Chepchumba - the pre-race favourite - was always in a position to challenge for a second title to add to the one she had won by the margin of one second from Liz McColgan two years earlier. Established in the leading group of five alongside Elana Meyer, Nicole Carroll, Manuela Machado and Adriana Fernandez, she was the only one to respond to Fernandez's break for home with six miles left, passing her before the 22-mile mark.

Chepchumba, who lives with her husband and son in Kenya but has a German training base, earned a total of $230,000 for her performance, the richest day's pickings by a woman marathon runner. She said that part of her money would go to her family, part to some younger runners, and part to herself. "Maybe I will buy a dress," she said with a broad smile. It could be some dress.

Asked if she regarded her run as intrinsically superior to Loroupe's, Chepchumba replied: "Yes, I think today was better because we women ran alone."

El Mouaziz believed he had earned his victory by gambling at an earlier stage than he had the previous year. "I am a specialist marathon runner," said the man who has won the Marrakesh event three times. "I knew I had to build up a lead because track runners, like Anton Pinto, could out- sprint me in a finish."

Pinto, whose course record of 2:07:55, survived by two seconds, was angry with himself for misjudging the race. "We had no information about how big a lead El Mouaziz had," he said. "There were so many strong athletes in the group that no one wanted to risk making a move by themselves. El Mouaziz didn't win the race; the group lost it."

There was some satisfaction, however, for Britain's Jon Brown, who finished fourth in a personal best of 2:09:44. It may be enough to persuade him to run next year's Olympic Marathon.


MEN'S RACE (GB or Irl unless stated): 1 A El Mouaziz (Mor) 2hhr 7min 57sec; 2 A Pinto (Por) 2:09.00; 3 A Anton (Sp) 2:09.41; 4 J Brown 2:09.44; 5 J Kiprono (Ken) 2:09.49; 6 G Leone (It) 2:10.03; 7 A Juzdado (Sp) 2:10.03; 8 D Castro (Por) 2:10.24; 9 S Mphulanzane (SA) 2:10.56; 10 Y Yamamoto (Japan) 2:11.13; 11 L Troop (Aus) 2:11.21; 12 Lee Bong-Ju (Kor) 2:12.11; 13 T Gebreselassie (Eth) 2:13.13; 14 A Szalkai (Swe) 2:13.19; 15 G Ruggiero (It) 2:13.31; 16 T Negere (Eth) 2:13.40; 17 R Da Costa (Bra) 2:14.10; 18 P Redmond (Fr) 2:14.21; 19 B Parades (Mex) 2:14.31; 20 P Arco (Sp) 2:14.41. Also: 22 M Hudspith 2:15.11; 23 I Hudspith 2:15.47; 26 E Martin 2:17.22; 27 D Buzza 2:17.39; 33 T O'Brien 2:20.20; 34 P Williams 2:20.23; 38 D Bilton 2:21.34; 39 A Shepherd 2:22.15; 40 D Rathbone 2:22.29; 43 D Cavers 2:22.46; 44 R Adams 2:22.49; 45 P Pocailaghan 2:22.58; 46 M Lemaiyan 2:23.10; 47 D Grover 2:23.12; 49 D O'Keefe 2:24.18.

MEN'S WHEELCHAIR RACE (GB or Irl unless stated): 1 H Frei (Swit) 1:35.27; 2 J Jeannot (Fr) 1:35.28; 3 D Holding 1:45.28; 4 D Lemeunier (Fr) 1:45.32; 5 K Papworth 1:48.12.

WOMEN'S RACE (GB or Irl unless stated): 1 J Chepchumba (Ken) 2:23.22; 2 A Fernandez (Mex) 2:24.06; 3 M Machado (Por) 2:25.09; 4 N Carroll (Aus) 2:25.52; 5 E Meyer (SA) 2:27.18; 6 T Terauchi (Japan) 2:28.31; 7 K McCann (Aus) 2:28.44; 8 A Kanana (Ken) 2:29.47; 9 V De Oliveira (Bra) 2:32.17; 10 L Guadelupe (Mex) 2:36.42; 11 R Rios (Sp) 2:37.45; 12 H Kazawa (Japan) 2:42.20; 13 M Moon (NZ) 2:43.26; 14 N Scales 2:44.28; 15 J Lodge 2:45.46; 16 W Llewellyn (NZ) 2:48.02; 17 J Newton 2:48.22; 18 K Wood 2:50.43; 19 S Dixon 2:50.45; 20 S Eastall 2:51.51. Also: 21 D Maiden 2:52.15; 22 C Hunter-Rowe 2:53.55; 23 G O'Connor 2:54.19; 24 E Robinson 2:54.55; 25 S Massey 2:55.03; 26 S Cooney 2:55.51; 27 L Jones 2:56.22; 28 Z Marchant 2:56.25; 29 J Hoskin 2:56.30; 30 L Godding-Feltham 2:56.50; 31 L Quigley 2:57.39; 32 C McKinlay-Evans 2:58.15; 33 A Brown 2:58.28; 34 P Affleck 2:58.40; 35 J Skelmerdine 2:58.46.

WOMEN'S WHEELCHAIR RACE (GB or Irl unless stated): 1 M Wetterstrom (Swe) 1:57.38; 2 T Grey 2:11.10; 3 P Dockery (Irl) 2:14.53; 4 K Darke 2:39.51; 5 M Rice 2:47.51.