Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede wins men's London Marathon
Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia crosses the line to win the men's London Marathon in the Mall, in London, Sunday, April 21, 2013. (AP / Alastair Grant)
Rob Harris, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, April 21, 2013 10:06AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 21, 2013 11:43AM EDT
LONDON -- Tsegaye Kebede claimed a second London Marathon title on Sunday, cheered through the streets by thousands of spectators reassured by enhanced security at the first major race since the twin bombings at the Boston event.
A race that started with a tribute to the Boston victims with a moment of silence ended with a thrilling conclusion under clear blue skies.
With a black ribbon pinned to his chest, Kebede chased down Emmanuel Mutai in the closing stages, and overtook the tiring Kenyan to cross the line first in front of Buckingham Palace.
Kebede clocked 2 hours, 6 minutes and 4 seconds to emulate his 2010 triumph in London, while compatriot Ayele Abshero was third.
"I had a little pain in my side during the early part of the race, but as time went on it got better and better," Kebede said. "I could feel myself getting closer and closer to Mutai and that made me stronger. It was a great day to run the London Marathon and even better to win."
Mutai, who was 29 seconds behind Kebede, blamed hip and thigh problems for conceding the lead.
"(I) could not pick up the pace in the late stages," Mutai said. "Now having said that, I am not disappointed with my time or how I felt during the race."
Kebede's victory in the British capital came after he was denied a shot at glory here at the Olympics last year when he was overlooked by Ethiopian selectors.
The women's race saw Olympic silver medallist Priscah Jeptoo go one better in the annual London race.
The Kenyan cruised over the line in 2:20:15, the fastest time this year, ahead of compatriot Edna Kiplagat, while Yukiko Akaba of Japan was third.
"I knew this morning I was going to run well, but there was such a good field you were worried someone would do better," Jeptoo said. "It wasn't until around 25 miles that I got that confidence back and felt I would win."
It was a miserable day for Olympic champion Tiki Gelana, who finished 16th after seeing her hopes thwarted by a collision about a third of the way in.
The Ethiopian collided with Canadian wheelchair racer Josh Cassidy as she went to get a drink.
"Every year we come to overtake the women, there's 10 chairs going at 20 mph and the poor women are scrambling to find their feet," said Cassidy, who finished 20th. "I have a brand new $2,000 pair of wheels that are damaged, who's going to pay for them? Things have to change."
It was the one blot on a day marked by the defiance of athletes and spectators in the bright London sunshine at the end of a difficult week for the athletics community.
The spectre of the bombings near the Boston Marathon finish line, which killed three people and injured more than 180, loomed in London.
"I was surprised so many people on the way cheering us and that shows there was no fear for those people," Jeptoo said.
And it was apt that Tatyana McFadden, who won her first wheelchair race in Boston just before the explosions, shrugged off security concerns in London to mark her 24th birthday with a second title this week.
"Today was about running freely and running for Boston," she said.
"There was never a doubt that I was not going to run, and I was going to run for the people back in Boston -- the people who lost loved ones or who are newly injured."
With around 35,000 runners, London organizers pledged to donate 2 pounds ($3) for every finisher to The One Fund Boston set up to raise money for the bomb victims.
Before the start of the marathon, event commentator Geoff Wightman urged athletes to "remember our friends and colleagues for whom a day of joy turned into a day of sadness."
Prince Harry mingled with the crowds and said he had never thought about cancelling his visit following the bombings.
"It's fantastic, typically British," he said. "People are saying they haven't seen crowds like this for eight years around the route. It's remarkable to see."