First Marathon Olympic Champion Sifan Hassan Won the London Marathon on Her First Attempt

Sifan Hassan had never run a marathon, never raced on asphalt, and had never drunk fluids while completing a road race. 

Ethiopian-born Olympic track champion from the Netherlands, Sifan Hassan, overcame the odds stacked against her and won the London Marathon on Sunday. Hassan, with three miles left to run, caught up to the leaders of the race— Ethiopia’s Alemu Megertu and Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir—before breaking the finish tape in two hours, 18 minutes, and 34 seconds.

The annual London Marathon held this year on 23 April, 2023, in London, United Kingdom. The 42,195 kilometre course is the second-largest annual road race in the UK, and spans along the River Thames from Blackheath to The Mall.  This year, the marathon returned to its usual April slot after three years of being held in October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to ESPN, 48,000 people were expected to cross the finish line near Buckingham Palace from the 49,675 runners who registered for the race. Notably, the number of registered runners increased from the previous record of 43,199 in 2019.

Better known as a middle-distance runner, Hassan came into the London Marathon as an underdog. She had never run a marathon, never raced on asphalt, and had never drunk fluids while completing a road race. Hassan trained for the marathon while observing the month-long fast of Ramadan, which restricted her from running lengthy distances as she was unable to eat or drink during the day.

Hassan’s run got off to a rough start due to an injury, in addition to her lack of marathon experience. The Dutch runner dropped off the pace about an hour into the race, paused at least once to stretch her sore left hip, and even after skipping her own water break, offered to give one of her competitors a drink as they raced.

Hassan said:

I never thought I would finish a marathon and here I am winning it. I had a problem with my hip, which made me stop. But it started to feel a little bit better. And then I missed one of the drinks stations! I didn’t practice that part of the race because I have been fasting and so that was quite difficult.

Hassan was born on 01 January, 1993, in Oromia, Ethiopia and came to the Netherlands at 15 years old as a refugee. In 2013, she attained Dutch citizenship. Though she started running recreationally, Hassan has only grown in the craft. She was a triple medallist at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, winning gold in the 5,000 meter and 10,000 meter races, as well as a bronze medal in the 1,500-meter race—the first athlete in Olympic history to win medals across all these events in a single Games.

She also won both the 1,500-meter and 10,000-meter races at the World Athletics Championships in 2019, becoming the only athlete in history to win both events at a single World Championships or Olympic Games. In addition, Hassan has three Dutch records, five European records, and the world records for the one-mile and five-kilometre road races

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