P>MONTE CARLO, MonacoThe first ever Monaco Marathon was won by Kenyan Ezekiel Bitok in 2:12:29 with Italy's Maura Viceconte taking the women's race in 2:28:16, an improvement of over one and a half minutes on her personal best. Although the course - which wound its way from the start in Monte Carlo through the French city of Menton, across the border into Italy and back again, was by no means flat, the climatic conditions were nearly perfect with the cool air, sunshine and lack of wind helping many competitors to record performances. Bitok, like many of the best Kenyan athletes, is a member of the Nandi tribe and currently trains with 10,000m world record holder Paul Tergat under the tutelage of Italian coach Dr Rosa. Bitok, had been part of Kenya's winning cross country team at the 1993 World Championships and finished second in last year's Boston Marathon. Second to Bitok at the finish outside the Stade Louis II was the amazing Ahmed Salah. Aged 40 according to the statistics books (although he believes he may be older) Salah clocked an impressive 2:12:44. His brave bid to catch the young Kenyan in the last few kilometres did not pay off but he was delighted with his performance. A thrilling race for third saw Russia's Mukhamet Nazhipov and Kenyan Alphonse Muindi cross the line together. Nazhipov was given the verdict but both men shared the time of 2:13:10.
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