Olympic champion Jepchirchir wins women’s race at London Marathon in record time

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LONDON (AP) — Peres Jepchirchir was more focused on securing a chance to defend her Olympic gold than on setting a world record for a women-only marathon.

She ended up doing both after pulling away late to win the London Marathon women’s race on Sunday.

Jepchirchir had by far the strongest finish as she easily left world-record holder Tigst Assefa and two other rivals behind to sprint alone down the final stretch in front of Buckingham Palace. She finished in 2 hours, 16 minutes, 16 seconds, with Assefa in second and Joyciline Jepkosgei in third.

That was more than 4 minutes slower than Assefa’s overall women’s world record set in Berlin last year, but it was the fastest time ever in a women-only marathon, beating the mark of 2:17:01 set by Mary Keitany in London in 2017. The elite women’s field in London starts about 30 minutes ahead of the elite men.

But more importantly for Jepchirchir, it should cement her place on Kenya’s Olympic team for Paris. She said the London Marathon was the final qualifying race before Kenya’s Olympic selectors pick their team for Paris.

“I was not expecting to run that time,” Jepchirchir said. “I was trying to work extra hard to defend my title in the Olympics.”

It was also a bit of redemption for Jepchirchir after finishing third in London last year, when she was beaten in a similarly tight finish and came in five seconds behind winner Sifan Hassan.

Coming out on top in a late sprint this time will only boost her confidence going into Paris.

“I think it helps me a lot,” she said. “For me, when I reach 800 meters (left), it’s difficult to defeat me.”

She was part of a Kenyan double with Alexander Mutiso Munyao, who won the men’s race.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

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