Gerda Steyn, the current Two Oceans and Comrades champion, produced the second fastest ever time by a South African woman in the standard 42.2km marathon when she finished seventh in the London Marathon on Sunday.
The London Marathon, rescheduled from its traditional April date because of the Covid-19 pandemic, took place for elite runners only over 19 laps around St James’s Park.
Steyn crossed the line in a personal best 2hr 26min 51sec in her third major marathon, having improved on her previous fastest time of 2:27:48 in New York last year.
The 30-year-old was only 16 seconds behind the South African record set by Colleen de Reuck in Berlin in 1996.
Brigid Kosgei, who holds the women’s world record, defended her title. Kosgei, 26, finished in 2:18.58, 3min 3sec ahead of American Sara Hall. She was almost five minutes outside her world record set in Chicago last year.
There was an upset in the men’s race as world record holder Eliud Kipchoge finished eighth as Shura Kitata won a thrilling sprint finish.
Four-time winner Kipchoge was the favourite, but fell behind with two laps to go and finished eighth. Ethiopian Kitata pushed ahead of Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba on the home straight to finish in 2hr 5min 41sec.
Despite the slow pace Kipchoge came up short and Kitata took full advantage, as Kipchoge was beaten for the first time since he came second in Berlin in 2013.
Kipchoge said afterwards that he had a problem with his right ear. ‘I am really disappointed. I don’t know what happened. The last 15km, I felt my right ear was blocked. I had cramp in my hip and leg.
‘It just happened in the race. I started well. It’s really cold but I don’t blame the conditions.’