Winning the Flora London Marathon is as good as winning an Olympic gold, Martin Lel said today, just 24 hours after regaining the Flora London Marathon title he first won in 2005.
The 28-year-old Kenyan, who won perhaps the greatest men's Flora London Marathon race in the 27-year history of the event yesterday, said he was proud to be Flora London Marathon champion again and likened it to winning at the world championships or Olympic Games.
"Here you are able to invite the top athletes in the world so for me it is no different to winning the world championships or Olympics, because you are competing against the best athletes in the world," said Lel, who triumphed yesterday in a dramatic five-man sprint for the line.
"Winning in races like this against many people who have lots of titles, like Haile [Gebrselassie] and Paul [Tergat], it really means I can say I am a champion," he added. "I have to thank the [Flora] London Marathon because it is always able to host the strongest athletes in the world and this makes it a great race. And it makes me proud to be the champion."
Lel crossed the line in 2:07:41, just three seconds ahead of Morocco's Abderrahim Goumri who finished second, and six in front of the defending champion, Felix Limo of Kenya, who was third, while two other athletes were also inside 2:08.
Lel, who lost his title last year by just two seconds, left his dash for home until the final 200 metres, bursting to the head of the five-strong pack as they turned into the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.
"This was one of the best tactical races I have ever run," he said. "It was much harder than when I won two years ago. Then there were only two or three people in the closing stages. Yesterday you saw five or six strong people at the end.
"It was a hard race but this meant we had to use our minds a bit. I had to use my mind to save myself to have energy for the end."
Lel, who takes home a $55,000 first-place price following yesterday's victory, revealed that he has used his previous marathon winnings to start a business running grocery shops and farms, and building houses. After finishing first, second and third in his three appearances here, it is clear he likes London. Indeed, he has named the group of houses he's built in Kenya 'Little London' – "so I can think I am in London even though I am in Kenya," he joked.
"Yesterday, all of the people who work for me were crying, they were so proud of what I did," he said. "It was like a mad house when I won. I heard that everyone was crying when I heard the story. It was incredible for me."
Lel added that he has not yet decided where to run his next marathon but played down suggestions that he might make an attempt on the world record in the near future.
"It has been a dream for me," he said. "People who I train with are wishing for me to do it. People say, 'Why not try?' But I think I can do it step by step and will take advice from others before I try to attempt it. Maybe I can get a little close to it but bit by bit."