It was a special day for British marathon running in London, and James Rhodes runs through what happened on the streets of the capital.

Today, once more, the streets of London shone.

As dawn breaked, just two British men had run inside 2:08:00, one did so almost 40 years ago. Today, Emile Cairess and Mahamed Mahamed joined that club. Both were well inside the Olympic qualifying time of 2:08:10 and, with the selection meeting held tomorrow, are all-but-guaranteed to join the team.

Twelve months ago, Emile Cairess made his marathon debut in London and ran 2:08:07. It was fantastic, a time so rarely seen amongst British athletes. Today, he returned to the capital and went even better, reaching the podium and running 2:06:46. That leapfrogs Steve Jones to move to second on the all-time list, behind Mo Farah’s 2:05:11.

Photo: James Rhodes

He was not alone in delivering a step-change performance. Mahamed Mahamed, also running 26.2 miles for just the second time, had the race of his career to clock 2:07:05 and finish fourth. That time also moves ahead of Steve Jones. He was paced by Phil Sesemann, already selected for Paris, and the trio will make a formidable trio in the French capital – assuming selection goes as expected.

Photo: James Rhodes

In his marathon debut, Marc Scott finished eleventh overall in 2:11:19. He had gone through halfway in 63:39 and was on track for his pre-stated goal of running inside the Olympic standard, but faced a tough second half. Notwithstanding it was an impressive first attempt at the distance, particularly given the number of athletes who didn’t make it to the finish.

Plenty More

Whilst much of the discussion beforehand focused on the potential race for Olympic qualifiers, there was plenty to keep an eye on further down the domestic elite field. In twelfth, Highgate’s Alex Lepretre clocked 2:15:34, less than half a minute shy of his PB set in his debut on the same course last year.

James Hoad (2:16:29) improved his best by over two minutes, with Callum Hawkins a minute behind in 2:17:34. It was a welcome return to London for Callum, although not the fairytale ending many were hoping to see.

From the mass start, George James of Dorking & Mole Valley finished in an impressive 2:14:59 in his marathon debut. His one and only race this year was the Surrey Cross Country Championships, but he has a 66:28 half marathon PB. Also from the mass start, Sean Hogan clocked 2:17:02 to better his 2:18:47 PB from twelve months ago.

A number of athletes didn’t make it to The Mall, including Weynay Ghebresilasie, who went with Emile in the early stages of the race, and Paulos Surafel, another marathon debutant.

A new men’s winner was guaranteed, and a two-man duel in the latter stages saw Alexander Mutiso (2:04:01) get the better of Kenenisa Bekele (2:04:15). It was another impressive performance by Bekele, who bettered his own Masters World Record by four seconds. One of the greatest distance runners of all-time, continuing to race at the highest level 22 years after first winning the World Cross Country Championships. Time will tell if that performance is enough to get him to another Olympics.

Photo: James Rhodes

Marvellous Mhairi

In the women’s field, Mhairi Maclennan had an excellent debut, finishing as the fastest Brit and eleventh overall in 2:29:15. She had passed through halfway in 73:34, running alongside Alice Wright, at a pace faster than originally expected. Alice Wright found the second half tough, finishing in 2:40:51.

Photo: James Rhodes

In an emotional return to the marathon, Becky Briggs finished twelfth in 2:35:25, with Rachel Hodgkinson one place behind (2:36:49). The pair had run together for the early stages but had some lonely miles towards the finish line.

Photo: James Rhodes

Molly Smith, running from the mass start, finished in 2:36:22 as the third fastest British woman overall. Coincidentally, her brother Jake was pacing the elite men’s race and was able to lend some support once his official duties were complete. Just behind was Alex Eykelbosch (2:36:26), both making their marathon debuts. Another marathon debutant, Verity Hopkins, clocked 2:37:17 whilst Lauren Reed (2:38:02) improved her PB by over six minutes. In her first marathon in six years, Rebecca Murray finished with a 2:38:52 PB whilst from the elite field Helen Gaunt clocked 2:38:40.

Photo: James Rhodes

It remains to be seen who, if anyone, will take the last available women’s spot for the Olympics. One potential, Clara Evans, was pacing Becky and Rachel this morning. Charlotte Purdue and Calli Thackery, both already selected, were also on pacing duties.

Record Breaking

At the front of the field, three of the four fastest marathoners in history assembled. They had set their sights on the women’s only World Record of Mary Keitany, set in London in 2017. Tigst Assefa, Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepngetich were joined by, amongst others, Olympic Champion Peres Jepchirchir, 2022 London winner Yalemzerf Yehualew and 2021 winner Joyciline Jepkosgei.

After a hot early pace, and halfway reached in 67:04, it was Peres Jepchirchir who came out on top. She broke Keitany’s World Record with 2:16:16 and moves to eleventh on the all-time list. It also improves her PB by precisely one minute. The first four all finished inside Keitany’s time, with Tigist Assefa (2:16:23) third and Joyciline Jepkosgei (2:16:24 PB) third.

Jepchirchir, Jepkosgei and Megertu Alemu (2:16:34) became the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth women to break 2:17:00.

Photo: James Rhodes