Jepkosgei and Lemma take the honours in London marathon war of attrition

Joyciline Jepkosgei and Sisay Lemma both ran away from the rest of the field to claim the titles at the 2021 London Marathon.

The women’s race – Jepkosgei shows her class

If anyone wants a lesson in marathon running, tell them to watch Jepkosgei’s performance today. The Kenyan went through halfway in 68:51 before running the second half just one second slower to run 2.17.43, seventh on the all-time list.

Heading through the half the pack was eleven strong, with all the favourites in contention. Slowly it was whittled down. Alemu Megertu was the first to go, not far past halfway. Next up Tigist Girma and Birhane Dibaba starting to feel the pinch at 25k. Next came Joan Chelimo Melly, then Valary Jemeli, by 35k the race had revealed its final cast.

Five remained. Jepkosgei hit the front through 35k, Degitu Azimeraw, Ashete Bekere, Lornah Chemtai Salpeter closing tracking with Brigid Kosgei slowly starting to crack.

As the 2020 winner started to become detached Jepkosgei made her move, pulling away from the pack and establishing a fifteen second lead relatively quickly. In her wake Azimeraw and Bekere.

By 40k the gap was fourteen seconds with Azimeraw the first of the two Ethiopians and it was a lead Jepkosgei was to maintain down the Mall. In doing so Jepkosgei adds London to her 2019 New York triumph and has established herself as the closest challenger to Olympic champ Peres Jepchirchir. That would be some battle one day down the line.

Azimeraw finished fifteen seconds back, her 2.17.58 enough to make her the ninth fastest female of all-time, with Bekere twenty seconds behind and eleventh on the same list.

Joyciline Jepkosgei12.17.43
Degitu Azimeraw22.17.58
Ashete Bekere 32.18.18
Brigid Kosgei42.18.40
Lornah Chemtai Salpeter52.18.54
Valary Jemeli62.20.35
Joan Chelimo Melly72.21.23
Zeineba Yimer82.21.40
Tigist Girma92.22.45
Charlotte Purdue102.23.26
Birhane Dibaba112.24.21
Sinead Diver122.27.16
Alemu Megertu132.27.18
Eloise Wellings142.29.42
Rose Harvey152.29.45

Britain’s Charlotte Purdue produced an impressive run with a slight negative split (71:44/71:42) for third on the British all-time list, just seven second behind Mara Yamaouchi. Rose Harvey impressed also with 2.29.45, just fifteen seconds outside the World Champs qualifying time.

The men’s race – Lemma has his moment

The men’s race had early drama with 2020 winner Shura Kitata dropping back after just five kilometres. By 10k the Ethiopian was twenty-five seconds adrift of a lead pack running aggressively from the off.

Evans Chebet, Vincent Kipchumba, Titus Ekiru, Mosinet Geremew, Birhanu Legese and Sissay Lemma lead a pretty elite group up front, four of which have run 2.03.00 or under. 29.13 through 10k the leading six passed half way in 1.01.25, with Eliud Kipchoge’s 2.02.37 course record looking under some threat.


Six became five shortly after 25k with the withdrawal of Titus Ekiru. The Milan winner from early this year was one of the big pre-race favourites. Barring Ekiru’s withdrawal none of the contenders proved willing to show their cards, something that at the time looked tactical but was made clear by what came next.

Sissay Lemma splits

The London Marathon winner would be decided by who could hold their pace best. While Lemma looked to be flowing away from Kipchumba and Geremew from 35k you need only look at his splits to see it was more a case that the Ethiopian held it together best.

Lemma crossed the line in an impressive 2.04.01, a time all the more creditable given a strong early pace. His splits of 61:26/62:35 were enough to deliver the greatest win of a highly consistent marathon career.

Three podiums at London, Berlin and Tokyo are now joined by the biggest them all and one that will do well to erase the dissapointment of his DNF at the Olympics. His 22nd career marathon, it is also a lesson many marathon men would do well to heed.

Sisay Lemma12.04.01
Vincent Kipchumba22.04.28
Mosinet Geremew32.04.41
Evans Chebet42.05.43
Birhanu Legese52.06.10
Shura Kitata62.07.51
Phil Sesemann72.12.58
Joshua Griffiths82.13.39
Matthew Leach92.15.31
Andrew Davies102.15.36
Jonny Mellor112.16.09
Weynay Ghebreselassie122.16.27
Charlie Hulson132.17.02
Josh Lunn142.18.06
Mo Aadan152.18.19

Sesemann wins British marathon title.

Behind Lemma the British contest was took shape from 20-25k with Phil Sesemann putting a significant dent to his nearest challenger Josh Griffiths. A 15:31 5k split saw him put 32 seconds into the Swansea athlete who showed serious strength to rally over the final miles. 1 minute 26 seconds behind at 30k Griffiths would close the gap to 41 seconds by the finish. Sesemann finished in an impressive debut of 2.12.58, Griffiths, 2.13.39 with Matt Leach running 2.15.31 for a significant personal best.

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