London Marathon: High-profile rivals' sideshow works to Dorre's advantage: Victory for the women's title holder is paced to perfection as fancied opponents run aground. Mike Rowbottom reports

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LISA ONDIEKI gained the victory she had yearned for over Liz McColgan in yesterday's London Marathon - but at the price of winning the race itself. That distinction fell to Katrin Dorre, of Germany, last year's victor, who ran within herself and came through to lead from 17 miles out after her high-profile rivals had worn themselves out.

Ondieki, beaten by McColgan in their only previous marathon meeting two years ago in New York, had set out to show - among other things - that the Scottish runner's assessment of her own capabilities before that race, and her assertions that she was in shape to win in world record time, were overly ambitious.

On this occasion, they were. Despite her experience on the track, McColgan was undone by lack of experience in only her third marathon. She ran with bravery, as ever, going with Ondieki's swift early pace in company with Britain's Andrea Wallace, who dropped back after 10 miles and withdrew with an injured ankle after 21 miles.

McColgan, too, suffered on a humid and windy day. After the seventh mile had been completed in only 5min 50sec, Ondieki, indicating impatience, moved away from the two Britons and built a lead over McColgan which stretched to 10 seconds after 10 miles. For a spell, it seemed to be the winning break, but the world 10,000 metres champion hung on.

At 15 miles, soon after passing Canary Wharf, she had narrowed the gap to four seconds, and Ondieki deliberately slowed and waited for her to catch up. 'It just seemed like the wind was never at my back,' Ondieki said. 'I decided that I didn't want to be out there on my own. I was so committed to running a fast time in this race. I had a go, but this was not the day for it. It was a shame it was so windy, but those were the conditions, and I just had to get on with it.

'When Katrin arrived it was a bit of a surprise. She was looking good, looking strong. I was surprised that I was still up with her after 25 miles.'

It was part of Ondieki's contract that she would not appear alongside McColgan at any press conference, but she sat alongside her happily enough afterwards, with her two-year- old daughter Emma in between, and the rivals dipped their heads together, grinning and chatting. The similarity to a boxing promotion was complete.

Ondieki, who finished in 2hr 27min 27sec, 18 seconds behind Dorre, admitted that she would have run more cautiously in hindsight. 'It might have been different if I hadn't spent so much doing erratic miles early on,' she said. 'It was not a bad run, but tactically today I was way off. I thought it was going to be more sheltered out there.'

McColgan, who departs for high altitude training in Albuquerque, New Mexico today, said after her third place in 2:29.37, two minutes outside her best: 'I let myself down by going out too fast. It was a genuine mistake for a 10,000 metres runner, because it feels so easy in the first half. It hit me in the second half. But I still believe that my 10km training will help me to run better marathons in the next few years. I am only 28.'

While the experience of the last few miles, as she pounded on through the wind alone, was a painful one, she still felt it did not compare with the pain which she had suffered in winning her second marathon, last year in Tokyo, after injuring a hamstring. 'You learn by your mistakes,' she said. 'Today was a learning experience. You can't win every single race that you go into. No one is Superwoman.'

Dorre gave a fair impression of that lady as she made up ground inexorably on the leading trio before securing her 15th win in 24 marathons. She said she had always been confident that racing at her own pace would carry her through, although her coach decided that a little kidology might be helpful around the seven-mile stage. He told her that the gap between herself and the leading pair was 40 seconds - in fact it was just under a minute. But the wind - and the rivalry - worked in her favour.

(Photograph omitted)