Ethiopia's Yalemzerf Yehualaw wins the 2022 TCS London Marathon in 2:17:26, the third-fastest women's time in race history
Ethiopia's Yalemzerf Yehualaw wins the 2022 TCS London Marathon in 2:17:26, the third-fastest women's time in race history (photo courtesy of NN Running Team)

By David Monti, @d9monti (c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved with permission to use

 NOTE: This story was written remotely –Ed.

(02-Oct) — At the third and final October edition of the TCS London Marathon, Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw (Nike/NN Running Team) and Kenya’s Amos Kipruto (adidas) both used powerful late-race surges to win Europe’s largest marathon in 2:17:26 and 2:04:39, respectively. 

Yehualaw, 23, became the race’s youngest-ever winner, and like the 30 year-old Kipruto got her first-ever Abbott World Marathon Majors victory.  Both athletes won USD 55,000 in prize money plus time bonuses.

The elite women were targeting Mary Keitany’s women-only World Athletics record of 2:17:01 set in London in 2017.  A total payday of USD 355,000 awaited today’s winning woman should she make that mark, and at the halfway point eight women plus a pacemaker were only 29 seconds off of that pace.  Yehualaw was joined at that point by compatriots Sutume Asefa Kebede, Ashete Bekere, Alemu Megertu and Hiwot Gebrekidan, while Kenyans Judith Jeptum Korir and Joyciline Jepkosgei were also there. Joan Melly Chelimo, who formerly represented Kenya but now runs for Romania, filled out the leading group.

Ethiopia's Yalemzerf Yehualaw wins the 2022 TCS London Marathon in 2:17:26, the third-fastest women's time in race history
Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw wins the 2022 TCS London Marathon in 2:17:26, the third-fastest women’s time in race history (photo courtesy of NN Running Team)

The pacemaker, Ethiopia’s Gete Alemayehu, got the leaders to 25-K in 1:21:29 before retiring, and only Gebrekidan had been dropped.  The pack of seven held together through 30-K (1:37:52), but without the assistance of the pacemaker the projected finish time had slipped to 2:17:39.  It looked like Keitany’s record –and the big bonus payment– would have to wait for another day.

In the 33rd kilometer Yehualaw was running at the back of the pack, and as she went through a crosswalk she suddenly fell (it wasn’t clear why).  She quickly got to her feet and in less than a minute rejoined the lead pack.  She didn’t appear to be injured; her running form looked normal and there were no visible scrapes or cuts.

But the real action was yet to come.  Over the next 5-kilometer segment Yehualaw put the hammer down, reportedly splitting mile 24 in a hard-to-believe 4:43.  Kebede, Korir and Megertu were dropped.  Yehualaw covered the 5-kilometer segment from 35 to 40-K in an official 15:51; Jepkosgei was now 16 seconds back and Korir and Mergertu were together 36 seconds back.

Without question, Yehualaw was still trying for Keitany’s record in the final two kilometers, but she just ran out of time.  Her winning mark of 2:17:26 was the third-fastest ever at London behind only Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 from 2003 and Keitany’s 2:17:01 from 2017.  Jepkosgei got second in 2:18:07 and Megertu third in 2:18:32.  Korir –who won the silver medal at the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene last July, and originally planned to be a pacemaker here– was fourth in 2:18:43.  Melly got fifth in 2:19:57.

“I really like this race,” Yehualaw told the race’s flash quotes team.  “I knew it was fast-paced and I was aware we were on world record-breaking time at one point, but I just focused on running as fast as I could.”

Although she didn’t win the USD 355,000, her total payday (not including her appearance fee or any private bonuses her management negotiated with the race) was a solid USD 205,000 (55,000 for the win plus 150,000 for breaking 2:17:30).  

It’s remarkable that Yehualaw has only run two marathons.  She made her debut in Hamburg last April, and her mark of 2:17:23 was the fastest-ever by a debutante.

The men’s race was also well-balanced like the women’s.  Seven were in the lead pack at halfway behind pacemakers Emile Cairess (GBR) and Benard Ngeno (KEN): Ethiopians Kenenisa Bekele, Kinde Atanaw, Leul Gebresilase, Birhanu Legese, and Sisay Lemma (the defending champion), plus eventual winner Kipruto and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi.  The pace was solid, but not too fast: 1:02:14.  Cairess immediately dropped out after hitting the halfway mark.

The group of seven stayed together through 30-K (1:28:49) and the pace had only slipped slightly, closer to a 2:05 winning time.  The runners looked nervous and restless, and there was some clipping of heels.

Just before 35-K Bekele (who is now 40 years-old) was dropped.  He would run bravely to the finish and ended up fifth in 2:05:53, a new world best for men over 40.  Lemma also fell off the back and would finish seventh in 2:07:26.

Kipruto decided that the time was right to show his cards, and put in a surge.  

“This is going to be a beautifully timed acceleration,” said commentator Rob Walker on the race broadcast.

Indeed it was.  Kipruto, the 2019 World Athletics Championships Marathon bronze medalist who failed to finish at the Tokyo Olympic Marathon, scorched the 5-kilometer segment from 35 to 40-K in 14:33 and none of his competitors could match his speed.  He scampered to the race’s grand finish on The Mall alone in 2:04:39.  He won USD 105,000 in prize money and time bonuses (55,000 for the win and 50,000 for sub-2:05).

“This is my London debut and it’s a wonderful day,” said Kipruto.  “I’m very, very happy I won,” he said.  He continued: “I decided to make a decisive break because of my training.  I was confident and I knew when to go.”

Gebresilase took second in 2:05:12, Abdi got third in 2:05:19, and Atanaw was fourth in 2:05:27.

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The TCS London Marathon will return to its regular position in the calendar in April, 2023, after being held in October in 2020, 2021 and 2022 because of the pandemic.  The entry process for next year’s race has already opened.


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