It proved 13th time unlucky as world record holder Eliud Kipchoge fluffed his lines at Sunday’s London marathon, won in a thrilling sprint finish by Ethiopian Shura Kitata.
The coronavirus-hit marathon, limited to elite runners and with no crowds, was the first Kipchoge hasn’t won since finishing second in Berlin in 2013 — he had won all 11 others he raced in, including the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Dropped at the 38km mark of the 42.2km race, Kipchoge could only watch from a distance as Kitata outpaced Kenyan Vincent Kipchumba in the final strait to win in 2hr 05min 41sec. Ethiopian Sisay Lemma took third.
Kipchoge, who set the world record of 2:01.39 in Berlin in 2018, eventually finished eighth.
“I am really disappointed,” the 35-year-old told BBC. “I had a problem with my right ear after it blocked and then I really cramped and had problems with my hip.
“It was cold but I don’t blame the conditions.”
Kipchoge added: “The last 15km I felt it. I felt well in the start. Absolutely there are more marathons in me and I will come back again.”
Originally due to be run in April, the London Marathon was rescheduled to October because of the coronavirus pandemic that has seen many top track and field events either cancelled or postponed, most notably the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Rather than the usual mazy run through the streets of the British capital, the course was made up of 19 1.5-mile loops around St James Park, with the iconic Buckingham Palace framing the finish line.
The men’s race had been touted as a showdown between Kenyan legend Kipchoge and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, arguably the best track athlete in the world.
Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata breaks the tape as he wins the elite men’s race of the 2020 London Marathon in central London on October 4, 2020.
But Bekele pulled out Friday with a calf injury, taking the gloss of what would have been a battle for the ages