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Eliud Kipchoge suffers first defeat at London Marathon

Eliud Kipchoge‘s invincibility is gone.

The greatest marathoner in history lost for the first time in seven years at Sunday’s chilly, rainy London Marathon, ending a streak of 10 straight wins over 26.2 miles.

Kipchoge dropped behind a leading group of six men in the 24th mile and never regained contact, placing eighth in 2:06:49. The Kenyan cited a blockage in his right ear over the last 10 miles and leg and hip cramping but didn’t blame the 50-degree weather.

London Marathon“At the last five kilometers, I discovered that something is wrong,” said Kipchoge, a 35-year-old who shivered through a thick jacket in a post-race interview. “My legs are not moving. My ear is totally blocked. I tried to keep on with the pace and tried to finish.”

Ethiopian Shura Kitata won in 2:05:42, one second ahead of runner-up Vincent Kipchumba of Kenya.

Shura KitataKipchoge came into Sunday with 11 wins in his 12 career marathons.

In his last three times racing 26.2 miles, he lowered the world record to 2:01:39 in Berlin in 2018, won his fourth London Marathon title in 2019 in a course record 2:02:37 and became the first person to cover the distance in under two hours. He ran 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible event in Vienna last October.

To put Kipchoge’s 10-marathon streak in perspective, the two other legendary male marathoners, Ethiopians Abebe Bikila and Haile Gebrselassie, topped out at six in a row.

“I’m truly disappointed,” said Kipchoge, known for his calm, philosophical demeanor. “But, all in all, this is sport. Sport is run by today you are up, tomorrow you are down.”

The London Marathon was postponed from its usual April date due to the coronavirus pandemic. The mass race was canceled. On Friday, Kipchoge’s biggest threat, Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, withdrew with a calf injury.

Traditionally, runners wind around the River Thames and produce some of the faster times of the six World Marathon Majors.

This year, they were in “a secure biosphere” and completed 19 loops of St. James’s Park without the usual spectator crowds — but cutouts, including Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William — before finishing at the usual line at The Mall.

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