Athletics-Jepchirchir crushes women's-only world record in winning London Marathon

Athletics - London Marathon - London, Britain - April 21, 2024 Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's elite race REUTERS/Matthew Childs

LONDON (Reuters) -Reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir crushed the women's-only world record in winning the 44th London Marathon on Sunday, while Kenyan compatriot Alexander Mutiso Munyao pulled away from Ethiopian distance great Kenenisa Bekele to win the men's race.

The 30-year-old Jepchirchir crossed the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace in two hours 16 minutes 16 seconds to break Mary Keitany's mark of 2:17:01 set in a women-only race at the 2017 London event.

Jepchirchir pulled away from a group of four in a sprint finish before collapsing to her knees in tears having beaten the fastest field of women ever assembled.

"I thought the race would be fast and that the record would go, but I was not expecting it to be me," Jepchirchir said.

"It's because I believe in myself. As I crossed the finish line, I thought about how grateful I am for this to be my last event representing Kenya before I head to Paris (Olympics). I now know I have a great chance to defend my title in Paris."

Munyao, 27, who was pushed by Bekele until the final couple of kilometres, won the men's race in 2:04.01, pumping his fist several times en route to the biggest victory of his career.

"I'm happy for winning the race today and at 40 kilometres I got some pressure from Kenenisa Bekele but I had a lot of confidence because I trained for this race," Munyao said. "So I said: let me be confident.

"After 40 kilometres, I thought I had energy enough to win today's marathon."

He was hoping the victory would be enough to earn him a spot on Kenya's powerhouse Olympic team for the Paris marathon in August.

"I think I am capable to run in Olympics," he said.

The 41-year-old Bekele -- who has raced to three Olympic titles on the track and a remarkable 17 world titles in outdoor and indoor track and cross-country -- was second in 2:04.15.

Emile Cairess took third in 2:06.46, all but clinching his spot on Britain's Olympic team.

"It pretty much means I am selected, I am in the team." Cairess said. "It was a risk (to race) but it paid off."

Cairess dedicated his race to his cousin who survived a serious car crash recently.

"It was a really tough time," the 26-year-old said. "I was emotional this morning. I am so proud to do this for him today. It's not all about the time and the performance."

Thirty seconds of applause marked the start of the men's race in memory of world record-holder and last year's winner Kelvin Kiptum, who died in a car accident in February, at the age of 24.

Tigst Assefa of Ethiopia, who clocked 2:11.53 at the Berlin Marathon in September to set a world record for women in a race alongside male runners, crossed second in the women's race in 2:16.23.

Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya, the 2021 London winner, was third in 2:16.24.

Marcel Hug won the men's wheelchair race, while Swiss team mate Catherine Debrunner won the women's event.

Approximately 50,000 runners were expected to cross the finish line of the 42.2-km race that snaked along the River Thames on a breezy, 10 degrees Celsius day, making this year's edition the largest ever London Marathon.

(Reporting by Lori Ewing; editing by Clare Fallon)

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