By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - Kenyan world record holder and defending champion Brigid Kosgei cruised to a dominant victory in the 40th London Marathon on Sunday, overcoming her rivals on an unfamiliar multi-lap course in relentless rain to triumph in two hours, 18.58 minutes.
Running her first marathon since setting the world record of 2:14.04 in Chicago a year ago, Kosgei ran alongside compatriot Ruth Chepngetich until around the 20-mile mark, when she forged clear to open a lead of about 50 metres within a couple of minutes.
She then ran strongly for the rest of the race to finish around three minutes clear.
American Sara Hall produced an incredible finish, wiping out a huge deficit over the last few hundred metres to sweep past world champion Chepngetich almost on the line to finish in 2:22.01 to the Kenyan's 2:22.05.
Wrapped in a huge coat at the finish area, the tiny Kosgei said it had been a tough day. "It was wonderful to race but we haven't been able to prepare well because of COVID, and because of the weather today it was a struggle up to the moment I finished," she said.
The race, originally postponed from April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was run over 19.8 laps of a fenced-off course in a "controlled secure biosphere" around St James's Park, with the finish line in its traditional place on The Mall.
Hall's remarkable sprint finish meant she bettered her personal best by 15 seconds and meant she had 15,000 dollars to donate to the Ethiopian children's charity she is supporting with all her prize money. Kosgei won 30,000 dollars.
Eliud Kipchoge is the red-hot favourite to win the men's race on the same course later on Sunday after his main rival Kenenisa Bekele withdrew on Friday with a calf injury.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by David Goodman and Hugh Lawson)