ALPHONCE Felix Simbu continued to rise as Tanzania’s top marathoner with a creditable fifth-place finish in men’s race at the 2017 London Marathon, yesterday.
Simbu, winner of the 2017 Mumbai Marathon and fifth-placed at last year’s Olympic Games, produced his best 42km race ever as he posted a new personal best time of 2:9:10 hours.
The country’s brightest prospect in long-distance race, who hails from Singida Region but currently residing in Arusha, lived up to his dream and personal target; which was to improve his personal best.
He ran nine seconds faster in his debut London Marathon race yesterday to beat his previous best time of 2:09:19, set March last year, in Otsu, Japan. Simbu started the race ranked 13th as per the London Marathon elite men runners’ personal bests, but once again defied the odds with a superb late charge which saw him gate-crash into top five.
Simbu will head to World Athletics Championships in London in August, this year, more confident after yet another outstanding performance at the world stage. In January, this year, Simbu sealed Mumbai Marathon win at a time of 2:9:32, beating Kenyan Joshua Kipkorir by 32 seconds.
He took home a 42,000 US Dollars cash prize (about 90m/-). The Mumbai feat came five months after Simbu’s heroics at the 2016 Rio Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last August. He narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fifth in the men’s marathon at a time of 2:11:15, a difference of 2:31 minutes from the gold winner and 1:10 minutes behind the bronze medalist.
It was the nation’s best finish at the Games. Simbu improved his time from 2:11:15 in Rio to 2:09:33 at Mumbai Marathon, which enabled him to equal the fastest-second winning time in the history of the race.
At the virgin Money London marathon yesterday, Simbu finished four minutes behind winner Daniel Wanjiru of Kenya, who recorded the greatest victory of his career as he fended off Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele.
Wanjiru’s feat was even more remarkable given the strength of the opposition as aside from 34-year-old Bekele there was Eritrean world champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie and Ethiopia’s Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa.
The 24-year-old Wanjiru came home in a time of 2hrs 5min 48sec to beat Bekele, who recovered from a poor patch mid-race to come roaring back in the final eight miles, but ultimately fell just short.
Bekele finished nine seconds adrift whilst Wanjiru’s compatriot Bedan Karoki was third in 2hr 07:41. Bekele, whose training was interrupted when he was ill three weeks ago, went through a bad patch and looked like he folded completely shortly after the halfway mark.
He dropped from the lead group but rediscovered some of his vim and trailed the leading three runners by eight seconds. Kenya’s Mary Keitany, meanwhile, set the fastest time in a women- only marathon as she won a third London Marathon on Sunday in an unofficial 2hrs 17min 01sec. The 35-year-old, who also has three New York Marathon victories, beat Ethiopian track great Tirunesh Dibaba by almost a minute.
Keitany went out at breakneck speed, helped by a pacemaker, and was on record pace when left on her own with about 10 miles to go. Dibaba was the only one who looked capable of throwing down some sort of challenge.
Keitany started to pay for her early efforts but Dibaba – known as the “Baby Faced Destroyer” – made little inroad into the Kenyan’s lead, trailing her by over a minute at the 18-mile mark.