It was a moment that left the running world in awe. Sifan Hassan, the Olympic track champion from the Netherlands, running her very first marathon, staged a breathtaking comeback to win the 2023 London Marathon in one of the most dramatic and unexpected finishes in the history of the race.
Sifan Hassan's remarkable marathon win:
Stopped to stretch twice 🙆♀️
Looked like she was out of the race ❌
Managed to catch up with leading pack 💨
Missed her drink station before offering it to rivals 💧
Won on her debut against the most stacked women's field in years 🥇 pic.twitter.com/5AooFtbGDa
— Eurosport (@eurosport) April 23, 2023
Hassan, known for her middle-distance success and holding the world record in the mile, showcased her incredible range as a runner, but also her inexperience as a marathoner. At the Tokyo Olympic Games, Hassan completed an unprecedented triple, winning gold medals in both the 5000 metres and 10,000 metres and a bronze medal for the 1500 metres. Hassan is the only athlete in Olympic history to win medals across a middle-distance event and both long-distance races in a single Games.
Her race was far from textbook, and marathon world champion Paula Radcliffe expressed concern, urging Hassan to stop and step off the course. In her first ever Marathon, the Ethiopian-born Dutch athlete fell off the pace about an hour into the race, visibly struggling and even stopping to stretch her aching left hip.
"She needs to stop," Britain's marathon world champion Paula Radcliffe said on BBC TV. "Somebody needs to give her some advice to step off and stop trying to run on."
She even offered a drink to one of her rivals, despite missing a water stop herself, as she had never practiced drinking during a race due to observing Ramadan, a month of fasting where she could not eat or drink during the day.
"I didn't practise getting a drink. I saw the other athletes go and I thought 'where are they going?," said Hassan.
— TCS London Marathon (@LondonMarathon) April 23, 2023
But Hassan's determination and resilience shone through as she regained her strength and slowly closed the gap on the front-running group, which included experienced marathoners like Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya and Yalemzerf Yehualaw of Ethiopia, the defending London Marathon champion.
Mile by mile, Hassan crept closer to the leaders, navigating the rainy streets of Westminster with unwavering focus. As she rounded the race's final turn with the grandstand in front of Buckingham Palace erupting in cheers, Hassan unleashed a burst of speed reminiscent of a 1,500-meter race.
Her final two challengers, Alemu Megertu of Ethiopia and Jepchirchir, could not match her pace, and Hassan crossed the finish line in 2 hours 18 minutes 33 seconds, with a look of disbelief and elation on her face.
In her post-race interviews, Hassan expressed her amazement at her victory, stating, "I can't believe it."
She credited her patience and the importance of running her own race, a valuable lesson she learned during the grueling marathon.
Despite the challenges she faced during the race, including the lack of practice in drinking during a race due to her observance of Ramadan and her hip discomfort, Hassan's determination and mental fortitude propelled her to an extraordinary victory.
Hassan's win at the London Marathon is not just a testament to her physical prowess, but also to her resilience, perseverance, and unwavering spirit.
Her incredible comeback and debut marathon win serve as an inspiration to athletes and aspiring runners around the world, showcasing the power of self-belief, grit, and determination in the face of adversity.
As Hassan stood on the podium, draped in a Dutch flag and holding her well-deserved trophy, she reflected on her historic win, saying, "It was just amazing. I never thought I would finish a marathon and here I am winning it."
Indeed, Hassan's triumph at the London Marathon is a moment that will be remembered in the history books as one of the most remarkable displays of courage and resilience on the road to victory.