Things SPIKES loves: underdogs, marathons, comfortable footwear and widescreen televisions. Here are five things for you to love about Tigist Tufa's surprise win in this year's London Marathon.

Under The Radar

The press coverage during the build up to the women’s race in London had been focused on the battle of the ‘Fantastic Four’ – Kenyan quartet Mary Keitany, Edna Kiplagat, Florence Kiplagat and Priscah Jeptoo, all of whom sit inside the top 20 list of all time Marathon times.

Meanwhile, Tigist Tufa’s marathon PB (2:21:52) made her the ninth fastest runner in the high quality field, and as a result she was barely mentioned during the days leading up to the London Marathon. It meant she had none of the world's glare on her until on race day, when it really mattered. 

“I am very happy because I took on some of the best athletes in the world,” she said in yesterday’s post-race press conference. Tufa didn’t just take them on, she beat them too.

Tigist Tufa ()

TROPHY: Here's hoping that Tufa didn't travel hand luggage only

Ethiopian Glory

Perhaps part of the reason for the lack of press focus on Tufa in the build-up to London is down to Kenya’s dominance in the UK capital in recent years. Before Sunday, you had to go back to 2001 to see an Ethiopian woman top the London podium (excluding Aselefech Mergia’s 2010 win following the retrospective disqualification of drugs cheats Liliya Shobukhova and Inga Abitovawas), when the legendary Derartu Tulu became the first woman from her country to win on the London streets.

Tufa revealed after the race that it had been her intention to emulate Tulu – who won two Olympic ('92 and '00) and one world ('01) 10,000m gold medals before moving to the road – and take the London crown back to Ethiopia.

“I knew Derartu had won here in the past and I was planning to follow her and win as well,” she said.

Tufa from the Bronx

In 2013, Tufa took an 11 month break from living in her home in Addis Adaba to live and train in the Bronx, New York. It was during that spell in the States that she began to show real promise on the road, and it was that year that she placed eighth in the New York City Marathon.

“I have a friend in America. I like to train and race there. But wherever you are, it is important always to train hard,” Tufa told the press yesterday.


ON THE SHOULDER: Tufa's Big Apple residency didn't go unnoticed when she hit the streets there

Dubai disappointment

Tufa looked good for the win at the half way stage of January’s Dubai Marathon, passing 20k in 1:05:23, a full minute ahead of the chasing pack. However the pace – and no doubt the Gulf’s brutal heat – would prove costly. Tufa was caught close to 35km and eventually finished back in 26th.

In London the 28-year-old showed that she had learned her lesson. In a slow-paced race, she broke from the leading pack at mile 23, a move that none of Tufa's competitors could come up with an answer to. Her winning time of 2:23:22 was 18 seconds ahead of Kenya’s two-time London champ Mary Keitany.

Force on the course

In the 20 months leading up to yesterday's race, Tufa's PB improved by a total of 19 minutes. With improved times came results and records. At the Ottawa Marathon last May she posted a new PB and course record 2:24:32 on the way to victory.

“After this race, I will improve my time,” a confident Tufa remarked at the time.

True to her word, she went on to win the Shanghai Marathon last autumn, shaving another couple of minutes from her PB and posting another course record 2:21:52 while she was at it.

Though her time in London was outside of her PB, and some way short of Paula Radcliffe's 2:15:25 world and course record, Tufa showed that she has learned the art of taking control of a race. The reward was the biggest win of her career so far.