LONDON marathon winner Martin Lel was delighted to add the BUPA Great North Run title to his collection of medals, but his euphoria was checked by the news his Ethiopian rival Haile Gebrselassie had broken the world record for the marathon in Berlin earlier in the day.
Lel out-sprinted fellow Kenyan Samuel Wanjiru in the final kilometre after the younger athlete had failed to open up a gap earlier in the course to shock the fastest man to have ever run this event.
It was the second time Lel had out-sprinted his national team-mate after a victory in Lisbon last year and he was always confident he had the leg speed to win as long as he could stay close to him.
He said: “I have been sprinting well in training and then Samuel did not get away in the race. I was confident I could beat him in a sprint finish. I’m very pleased with the win and it’s good for me to be able to add this to the London Marathon title.
“I wanted to test my speed in this race, but I didn’t think I would beat Samuel. He has set the world record for a half marathon and, before the race, I thought I would maybe finish second or third.
“I was a little surprised at the fact I was still with him in the last couple of miles, but I felt good at that point. The win is great news and I’m very happy. I enjoyed the race because the crowds were so supportive.”
Lel will return to Kenya this morning to ponder his next move and the prospect of challenging Gebrselassie’s world record of 2 hours 4 minutes and 26 seconds will be a clear motivation for him.
He said: “I had heard about the world record and it’s a very fast time. The level has been pushed higher and I will have to get back into training and see if I can run at that sort of pace in the future. I don’t know if I can run that fast at the moment, we will have to see.
“It is a challenge I would like to win, but we will have to wait to find out. Berlin is a fast course, but there are other fast one like Chicago to aim for as well.”
Thomas Abyu was the highest-finishing British athlete in the men’s race in fourth in a new personal best of 62:50, but Jon Brown who, has twice finished fourth in Olympic marathons, had to drop out after just six miles. Morpeth Harrier Ian Hudspith was in 10th in a time of 63:59.