BRITAIN'S marathon community stood in defiance of terrorism yesterday as record crowds lined the streets to watch the Virgin London Marathon fly past inside world record pace.

For every finisher from the 35,079 who registered, £2 (an estimated $100,000 total) will be sent by the organisers to help Boston victims.

This race is routinely a triumph of the human spirit. Yesterday it was even more so. Every athlete on the mass start, including the pantomime horses, scarf-knitters, rhinos and beer bottles wore a black ribbon. And all were orchestrated by the shrill of a whistle for 30 seconds of deafening silent respect.

Double Olympic champion Mo Farah was a bit player in the city which he made his own last year, but they turned out in their hundreds of thousands in the sunshine, cheering him to the echo. He was the apprentice here, respectfully keeping out of the way of the contenders and stepping off the road as promised, having cruised comfortably in the lead group. He reached 20km in 58min 30sec, and departed shortly after, before the leaders reached half-distance in 61:45, a pace which made the course the ultimate winner.

"I really got excited. But you have to let the guys do their race," said Farah, who may yet become the master. He said he had learned a lot in preparing for his first tilt at the full distance next year – contracted in a deal worth some £450,000. Most importantly, he should have learned the penalty for starting too fast, and the risk inherent in vocal partisan support. There were three clear leaders in the last four miles, each of whom might have been judged to have a winning lead. But this was high-stake, cardiovascular poker and Farah will have learned not to tip his hand. His main challenge, he said, "was picking up the drinks. I stopped one time and had to go back - I need more practice."

Inevitably, given the pace, the wheels came off. One man folded after another and the winning time (2hr 6min 4sec) by Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, was modest. Six of the field had all gone faster, and the winning time has been bettered 13 times.

Despite assembling the strongest field, and the blessing of near perfect conditions, the race was denied the record it craves.

The last men's world mark in London was by Khalid Khannouchi (2:05.38) 11 years ago. The record is now 2:03.38, and the man who set it, Patrick Makau, was among those who overcooked it yesterday, and finished 11th. Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich was sixth in 2:08.05, 45 seconds slower than in the Olympic Games and one place behind defending champion Wilson Kipsang.

The women's race was, initially, contrastingly pedestrian. The pace-makers constantly had to throttle back. The field was bunched at half-distance (71:49) but when Priscah Jeptoo increased the tempo, and covered the homeward half in 68:26, it blew apart the field. Last year's Olympic silver medallist fell on her knees in prayer, having came home in 2:20.15, fastest in the world this year but only seventh best here.

Among those in her wake was reigning Olympic champion Tiki Gelana. The Ethiopian was the fastest woman in the field, but controversy ensued as she derailed the hopes of the fastest wheelchair racer. Gelana, cruising in the lead group, cut in front of two wheelchairs as she lunged for her drink. She forced both chairs into the feeding station tables and went down heavily.

Canadian wheelie, Josh Cassidy, pounded the table in frustration, his race wrecked after 15km. He was the winner in 2010, but could finish only 20th. He immediately inquired who would pay for the damage to his $2000 chair and said changes had to be made, suggesting wheelchairs start before the women.

"There are 10 chairs doing 20mph - an athlete could have a leg broken and her career ruined," he said.

Gelana, who took Olympic gold in 2012 despite falling, could not repeat the feat. She never regained her rhythm and finished 16th, some 18 minutes outside her best.

David Weir was perfectly positioned coming round the final bend, but the quadruple Paralympic champion's bid for the outright record of seven London wheelchair wins folded on the run-in. He finished fifth as Kurt Fearnley took the title, while Tatyana McFadden, women's winner in Boston on Monday, achieved a remarkable women's double.