Wanjiru on course to win World Marathon Majors - The East African

Wanjiru on course to win World Marathon Majors

Saturday May 2 2009

By CHRIS MUSUMBA

He might have missed the world marathon record time and the accompanying bonus of $125,000) but Olympic marathon gold medallist Samuel Wanjiru, 22, set a new London course record and earned $305,000 for his efforts in 2:05:09.

Wanjiru’s win inched him closer to clinching the annual World Marathon Majors and the $500,000 jackpot in November.

Before him, Kenyans Robert Cheruiyot and Martin Lel won the Majors in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Wanjiru’s earnings in London include $150,000 in prize money, $100,000 in appearance fees and $55,000 for breaking the course record (the previous record of 2:05;15 was set by Lel last year, when he broke the 2:05.38 record set by Khalid Khannounchi of ???? in 2002.) He will receive further monies from endorsement deals with Japan’s Toyota, where he is still employed as a mechanic, and also from Nike Sports Wear.

It was by all descriptions an impressive performance by the Olympic marathon champion, securing his third marathon victory in four attempts.

A frontrunner, Wanjiru took over the race after the 29km mark, outrunning the fatigued pace setters and holding out to set a new personal best time, of 2:05;09.

Last year’s London winner, Lel, withdrew on doctor’s advice after failing to recover from an injury sustained during training.

“I am very happy to see I got the course record; maybe next year I will break the world record,” said Wanjiru.

In the women’s race, defending champion Germany’s Irina Mikitenko won in 2:22:13 to prove her critics wrong, making it two in a row after she clinched the title last year in her London marathon debut.

Briton Mara Yamauchi, a 35-year-old former diplomat who was one time posted in Kenya set a new personal best time of 2:23:12, 59 seconds behind Mikitenko. Liliya Shobukova of Russia was third in 2:24:24.

Wanjiru and Mikitenko have now extended their leads in the 2008-09 World Marathon Majors series.

The London Marathon is the second of six races in the series with other rounds being Boston, Berlin Marathon (September), Chicago (October) and New York (November).

Wanjiru makes no secret of the fact that although he holds the London and Olympic titles, he also wants to be accepted as the world’s leading marathon runner, a crown currently worn by Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie.

The young Kenyan has twice broken Gebrselassie’s half marathon record and the Berlin Marathon sets a grand stage for the two champions to clash.

It will probably answer the question who is the world’s fastest marathon runner of all time.

The London Marathon was a replay of the Bejing Olympics, where Wanjiru beat Ethiopian Olympic bronze medallist Tsegay Kebede (2:05:20) and Olympic Silver medallist Jaouad Gharib (Morocco, 2:05:27.)

Wanjiru’s time was the seventh fastest marathon time ever run.