Mutiso Munyao gives Kenya another London Marathon win after tribute to Kiptum

London — Alexander Mutiso Munyao delivered another win for Kenya on a day the London Marathon remembered last year’s champion Kelvin Kiptum.

A race that started with a period of applause for Kiptum, who was killed in a car crash in Kenya in February, ended with his countryman and friend running alone down the final straight in front of Buckinhgam Palace to earn an impressive victory in his first major marathon.  

Mutiso Munyao said he spoke to Kiptum after his win in London last year and that the world-record holder is always on his mind when he’s competing.  

“He’s in my thoughts every time, because he was my great friend,” Mutiso Munyao said. “It was a good day for me.”

It was a Kenyan double on the day, with Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir pulling away late to win the women’s race and cement her status as the favorite to defend her gold in Paris.

With around 400 meters (yards) to go to, Jepchirchir left world-record holder Tigst Assefa and two other rivals behind to sprint alone down the final stretch. She finished in 2 hours, 16 minutes, 16 seconds, with Assefa in second and Joyciline Jepkosgei in third.

Her time was more than 4 minutes slower than Assefa’s world record set in Berlin last year, but it was the fastest time ever in a women-only marathon, beating the mark of 2:17:01 set by Mary Keitany in London in 2017. The elite women’s field in London started about 30 minutes ahead of the elite men.

For Jepchirchir, though, the main goal was to show Kenya’s selectors for the Olympic team that she should be on the team again in Paris.

“So I was trying to work extra hard to (be able to) defend my title in the Olympics,” she said.

Mutiso Munyao denied 41-year-old Kenenisa Bekele a first London Marathon victory by pulling away from the Ethiopian great with about 3 kilometers to go Sunday for his biggest career win.

Mutiso Munyao and Bekele were in a two-way fight for the win until the Kenyan made his move as they ran along the River Thames, quickly building a six-second gap that only grew as he ran toward the finish.

“At 40 kilometers, when my friend Bekele was left (behind), I had confidence that I can win this race,” the 27-year-old Mutiso Munyao said.

He finished in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 1 second, with Bekele finishing 14 seconds behind. Emile Cairess of Britain was third, 2:45 back.

Bekele, the Ethiopian former Olympic 10,000 and 5,000-meter champion, was also the runner-up in London in 2017 but has never won the race.

Mutiso Munyao is relatively unknown in marathon circles and said he wasn’t sure whether this win would be enough to make Kenya’s Olympic team for Paris.

“I hope for the best,” he said. “If they select me I will go and work for it.” 

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