Mary Keitany, Mary Jepkosgey Keitany, Vivian Cheruiyot, Priscah Jeptoo, Magdalene Masai, Caroline Chepkoech, Great North Run half marathon, Great North Run, Charles Koech, Kenya’s Mary Keitany took 41 seconds off the women’s-only world record* at the Virgin Money London Marathon, running 2:17:01 at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (23). Keitany said in the build-up to this year’s race she was in shape to break Paula Radcliffe’s mark of 2:17:42 and while she demurred when asked about the possibility of bettering Radcliffe’s outright mark of 2:15:25, Keitany was running minutes inside Radcliffe’s schedule in the first half. Paced by her training partner Caroline Kipkirui, Keitany cut loose from arguably the most accomplished field in race history with an astonishingly fast third mile 4:37. Through 5km in 15:31 and 10km in 31:17, Keitany was running at close to 2:10 pace while the second group – which was already beginning to splinter – hit 10km in 31:31, exactly half a minute faster than Radcliffe in 2003. Keitany, who covered the fourth and fifth miles in 4:56 and 4:59 respectively, was still within sight of the second group at 10km but the 34-year-old was away and clear with a succession of mile splits faster than 5:10 through the 10-mile mark in 50:41. Her half marathon split of 1:06:54 was the fastest in marathon history (Radcliffe ran 1:08:02 in 2003) and her advantage had extended to 59 seconds over the chasers, including track greats Tirunesh Dibaba, Vivian Cheruiyot, former winner Aselefech Mergia and world silver medallist Helah Kiprop. “I know Mary is a fast runner and I was following my own pace and until halfway, I was on track but I was never expecting she would go that fast and maintain it,” said an incredulous Dibaba after the race. This early pace had already torn the second group asunder. Former winner Tigist Tufa and world champion Mare Dibaba had lost more than three minutes on the second group with the latter dropping out after the 30km mark. Keitany was also beginning to slow with a 14th mile of 5:21 before four successive miles in the 5:14-5:18 range. Through 30km in a pending world record of 1:36:05, Keitany was still 31 seconds faster than Radcliffe in 2003 but her preceding 5km split of 16:22 was her slowest thus far. Keitany’s mile splits had started to drift into the 5:20 range and while Dibaba seemed to be running with more fluidity, her lead stayed at more than one minute through 35km in 1:52:39. The overall world record was beyond reach but Keitany was still on course to smash Radcliffe’s women’s-only world record. Dibaba was running at a fantastic pace in just her second marathon, but after such a fast start she had to stop due to stomach cramps in the 23rd mile. She quickly gathered herself, but in spite of her fantastic credentials over the shorter distances there was no way she was going to catch Keitany. After covering the preceding two miles in 5:27 and 5:25 respectively, Keitany spurted again with a 26th mile in 4:56 to ensure she would take a sizeable chunk off Radcliffe’s 12-year-old women’s-only world record with 2:17:01, the second-fastest time in the history of women’s marathon running. “I want to thank the pacemaker who was taking me all the way to 14 miles,” said Keitany. “From there, I started to go alone and see how my body was.” Dibaba rallied in the closing stages to finish second in 2:17:56, taking more than a minute from Tiki Gelana’s Ethiopian record and becoming the third-fastest woman in history. “I haven’t decided yet but my gut feeling is I’ll be running the 10,000m on the track,” said Dibaba on her plans for the IAAF World Championships London 2017 this summer. Mergia was beset by leg cramps in the closing stages but the 2010 champion accrued another podium finish in third in 2:23:08 while Cheruiyot, who equalled her half-marathon lifetime best of 1:07:54 en route, faded to fourth on her debut in 2:23:50.
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Mary Keitany retires

World marathon record holder Mary Keitany has announced her retirement from athletes after long period

In a press release by her management, the Gianni Demadona, reported that the seven-time World Marathon Majors winner announced her retirement today after a stellar career which saw her win the London Marathon on three occasions and the New York Marathon four times, as well as triumph at the 2009 World Half Marathon Championships.

The 39 year old also still holds the marathon world record for a women-only race, having clocked a stunning 2:17:01 when winning the third of her Virgin Money London Marathon titles in 2017.

“After my successful 2019, when I had some good results including second place in New York, I was hopeful that I could still be very competitive internationally for several more years even though I am in my late 30s.”

“However, I’m sad to say, a back injury that I suffered in late 2019 made a decision about my retirement for me. I couldn’t get the treatment I wanted in Europe because of the pandemic-related travel restrictions last year and every time I thought I had got over the injury and started training hard, it became a problem again. So now is the time to say goodbye – if only as an elite runner – to the sport I love so much.”

Keitany first came to global attention in 2007, after local success in Kenya the previous year, with a series of good performances in European half marathons which then earned her a place in the Kenyan team at that year’s World Half Marathon Championships.

A silver medal at the 2007 edition of that event, and team gold, was followed by more than a decade among the very best of the world’s female road runners, even with breaks in 2008 and 2013 to give birth to her children Jared and Samantha.

Keitany won the 2009 world half marathon title in Birmingham, England, by over a minute in 1:06:36, at the time the second fastest mark ever on a record-legal course and an African record. She also led Kenya to the team gold medals.

After finishing third in New York on her marathon debut in 2010, her first major marathon win came in her next race over the classic distance when she triumphed in the 2011 Virgin Money London Marathon and further victories in the British capital came in 2012 and 2017.

She will also be remembered fondly for her three impressive consecutive wins in the New York Marathon between 2014 and 2016 before winning in the Big Apple again in 2018.

Other accolades include setting a world half marathon record of 1:05:50 at the 2011 RAK Half Marathon, fourth place in the London 2012 Olympic Games marathon, and she continues to hold the women-only 25km world best of 1:19:43, set during her triumphant 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon run.

“As for the future, I haven’t fully decided on my plans but I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family. My children are currently 13 and eight. In addition, I am involved with some local charitable enterprises,” said Keitany, who added that she still intends to pay close attention to what is happening in the world of distance running.

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