BERLIN (Reuters) - Kenya's Dennis Kimetto smashed the marathon world record in Berlin on Sunday, winning the race in a time of two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds after setting a scintillating pace from the start to shave 26 seconds off the previous best.
Kimetto dazzled hundreds of thousands of spectators along the inner-city course with his quick and seemingly effortless running style that saw off any challenge during the race.
The 30-year-old pre-race favorite broke away in a seven-man group, including fellow Kenyans Emmanuel Mutai and Geoffrey Kamworor, after 20 kilometers on a sunny and cool Berlin morning.
With four km remaining, he pulled clear from Mutai after the pair had shaken off Kamworor a little earlier to become the first man to complete the race in less than two hours and three minutes.
Kimetto, whose time also eclipsed the 2:03:02 clocked by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011 on Boston's record-ineligible point-to-point course, clocked under three minutes for all but three kms with an average of two minutes and 55 seconds per km in a sensational race.
His second half was about 30 seconds faster than the first.
This is the second consecutive world record along Berlin's flat race, considered the world's fastest marathon course, after Kenyan Wilson Kipsang's previous world best of 2:03:23 was set in the German capital last year.
"I feel good because I won a very tough race," the soft-spoken Kimetto told reporters. "I felt good from the start and in the last five kilometers I felt I could do it (break the record)."
Tirfi Tsegaye won the women's race with a time of 2:20:18, nine seconds ahead of fellow Ethiopian Feyse Tadese who was second. American Shalane Flanagan was third.
The tall Kimetto had provided evidence of his class at the distance with wins in Tokyo and Boston last year.
He had promised to attack the record in Berlin if conditions allowed and on Sunday he could not have hoped for better weather.
With temperatures hovering around eight degrees Celsius at the start of a cool day and gradually inching warmer as the race progressed, the Kenyan stayed in the lead group from the beginning and was always positioned near the front.
The last pacemakers stepped aside at around 30 km as the Kenyan trio gradually broke clear.
Mutai twice attempted to attack but Kimetto stayed strong and made his own move at the 38 km mark, with his compatriot soon dropping some 20 meters behind after losing their nail-biting duel.
With the iconic Brandenburg Gate in full view, Kimetto elegantly powered through the final stretch to clock a world best, with Mutai second 16 seconds behind, and Ethiopian Abera Kuma overtaking a fading Kamworor late on to claim third.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by John O'Brien/Alan Baldwin)