Kebede ends Kenya's 6-year London Marathon reign

Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia won the London Marathon for the first time today to end Kenya's six-year winning streak, and Liliya Shobukhova led a Russian one-two in the women's race.

The 23-year-old Kebede improved on last year's second-place finish by finishing in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 19 seconds.

"The rain wasn't very nice — it made my pace a little slow and because of that I had a few problems in my legs," Kebede said. "I was second last year so it is good to win this year. Maybe next year, without the rain, I could run 2:04."

The Olympic bronze medalist had looked set to break the world mark but still finished more than a minute ahead of Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya, while Jaouad Gharib of Morocco was third.

"At around 25k I felt Kebede pulled away and I would not get him back," Mutai said.

Defending champion Sammy Wanjiru had feared his performance would suffer after enduring a two-day journey from Nairobi, Kenya via Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt and Spain due to the air travel restrictions caused by volcanic ash. And the Olympic champion, who is still recovering from back problems, dropped out after 25kms.

"Traveling here was very hard and maybe that affected my knee — I wasn't comfortable sitting on the plane all that time," said the 23-year-old Wanjiru, who holds the course record. "When I started there was no pain and I felt in good shape.

"I was confident about winning but you can't predict the body. I started to feel pain about 20 kilometers and it became very serious."

Fellow Kenyan Abel Kirui had traveled with him and remained in contention until the final stages before dropping back to fifth.

There was also a strong performance to please the home crowd with Andrew Lemoncello of Britain finishing eighth in 2:13:40.

Earlier, the 32-year-old Shobukhova made it two marathon victories out of three as she became the first Russian woman to prevail in London, finishing 19 seconds ahead of compatriot Inga Abitova.

After leading for much of the race in wet conditions, Shobukhova broke away with two kilometers to go to finish in 2:22:00 to add to her victory in Chicago in October and improve on her third-place finish in London last year on her marathon debut.

"The rain was no problem — it was in and out which made it almost perfect conditions," Shobukhova said through an interpreter. "The pace was easy but I decided to push in the second half to break up the pack."

Aselefech Mergia blamed her third-place finish on exhaustion as her bid to become the first Ethiopian woman to win here since 2001 fell short.

"I didn't feel fresh," she said. "Next time I will not race so much and come to the event fresh."

Irina Mikitenko of Germany had been chasing a third straight win, but pulled out just before the halfway stage.

"I felt a muscle problem in my lower shin muscle after 5 kilometers," Mikitenko said. "The slippery roads made it worse and I first stopped running after 15 kilometers before pulling out."

British hopeful Mara Yamauchi was second behind Mikitenko last year, but finished tenth as she showed the effects of a grueling six-day journey from her training base in Albuquerque, New Mexico — a result of the travel chaos caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland.