In a stunning display of distance running, Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record* at the BMW Berlin Marathon on Sunday (16), winning the IAAF Gold Label road race in 2:01:39.
Compatriot Gladys Cherono, meanwhile, secured her third Berlin Marathon crown, smashing the course record. Her winning time of 2:18:11 moves her to fourth on the world all-time list.
From the early stages of the men's race, 33-year-old Kipchoge had just a handful of pacemakers for company as they passed through five kilometres in 14:24 and 10 kilometres in 29:01.
Wilson Kipsang, winner of the 2013 Berlin Marathon in a then world record of 2:03:23, led the chase trio with fellow Kenyan Amos Kipruto and Ethiopia's Abera Kuma close behind. They passed five kilometres in 14:33 before Kipsang edged ahead a few kilometres later, passing 10 kilometres in 29:12.
But shortly after 15 kilometres, which was reached in 43:38, two of Kipchoge's three pacemakers were unable to continue and withdrew from the race. The final pacemaker, Josphat Boit, led Kipchoge through the half-way point in 1:01:06 before dropping out at 25 kilometres, covered in 1:12:24.
Kipsang and Kipruto reached the half way point in 1:02:07, more than a minute adrift of Kipchoge. Abera was starting to struggle and was a further 18 seconds behind the chasing duo at half way and eventually pulled out.
Running alone with 17 kilometres left, Kipchoge then sped up.
Although 30 kilometres is no longer an official world record event, Kipchoge's 1:26:45 split at that checkpoint is the fastest time ever recorded for the distance.
He then passed the 35-kilometre checkpoint just a shade outside 1:41:00, suggesting a finishing time inside 2:02 was possible. By 40 kilometres, reached in 1:55:32, a world record looked a certainty.
Further behind, Kipruto had shaken off the challenge of Kipsang and was clear in second place. He trailed Kipchoge by nearly two minutes at 30km and the gap had almost doubled to three minutes and 42 seconds by 40 kilometres.
Kipchoge maintained his form well in the closing stages and crossed the finish line in 2:01:39, taking one minute and 18 seconds off the previous world record set four years ago by Dennis Kimetto and having covered the second half of the race in 1:00:33.
It is the largest single improvement on the marathon world record since Derek Clayton improved the mark by two minutes and 23 seconds in 1967.
"I lack the words to describe how I feel," said Kipchoge, who won in Berlin in 2015 and 2017. "It was really hard [during the last 17 kilometres] but I was truly prepared to run my own race. I had to focus on the work I had put in in Kenya and that is what helped push me.
"It was my aim to smash the world record and I felt confident before the race," he added. "I’ve now run 2:04, 2:03 and now 2:01. Who knows what the future will bring?
"I’m really grateful to my coaching team, my management, the organisation. I’ll definitely return to Berlin. Berlin for me is eternal."
Kipruto finished a distant second in 2:06:23 while Kipsang held on for third place in 2:06:48.
Having held off the early fast pace, Japan's Shogo Nakamura was rewarded with a PB of 2:08:16 in fourth place. World half marathon record-holder Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea also took a couple of minutes off his lifetime best, clocking 2:08:46 for fifth place.
Third triumph for Cherono
Gladys Cherono made it a Kenyan double by winning the women's race in a course record of 2:18:11.
Multiple world and Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba fronted the lead pack of five women during the early stages. Followed by Cherono, Ruti Aga, Edna Kiplagat and Helen Tola, Dibaba led the quintet through five kilometres in 16:27 and 10 kilometres in 32:44, suggesting a finishing time of about 2:18.
By half way, reached in 1:09:03, Dibaba had opened up a gap of seven seconds on her four opponents. It didn't last long, though, as Dibaba started to struggle a few kilometres later, allowing Cherono to move into pole position.
The five women were strung out at 25 kilometres with Cherono at the front, hitting that checkpoint in 1:21:51. Aga then followed, a couple of strides ahead of Dibaba. Kiplagat was a few seconds behind with Tola further back.
Aga ran with Cherono for a few more kilometres before the 35-year-old Kenyan pulled away again, this time for good.
Cherono, the winner in Berlin in 2015 and 2017, successfully defended her title in 2:18:11, taking more than a minute off the course record set 13 years ago by Japan's Mizuki Noguchi.
"When I attacked and overtook Tirunesh, I felt confident I would win," said Cherono, the 2014 world half-marathon champion.
Aga followed 23 seconds later to take second place in 2:18:34 while Dibaba held on for third place in 2:18:55. It was the first marathon in history in which three women finished inside 2:19.
Kiplagat, the two-time world champion, finished fourth in 2:21:18, the 38-year-old's fastest time since 2014.
Contesting just her second marathon, Japan's Mizuki Matsuda ran an impressively even-paced race and was rewarded with a PB of 2:22:23 in fifth, having overtaken Tola in the closing stages.
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure
1 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:01:39
2 Amos Kipruto (KEN) 2:06:23
3 Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 2:06:48
4 Shogo Nakamura (JPN) 2:08:16
5 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) 2:08:46
6 Yuki Sato (JPN) 2:09:18
7 Okubay Tsegay (ERI) 2:09:56
8 Daisuke Uekado (JPN) 2:11:07
9 Wily Canchanya (PER) 2:12:57
10 Bart van Nunen (NED) 2:13:09
1 Gladys Cherono (KEN) 2:18:11
2 Ruti Aga (ETH) 2:18:34
3 Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) 2:18:55
4 Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:21:18
5 Mizuki Matsuda (JPN) 2:22:23
6 Helen Tola (ETH) 2:22:48
7 Honami Maeda (JPN) 2:25:23
8 Carla Salome Rocha (POR) 2:25:27
9 Miyuki Uehara (JPN) 2:25:46
10 Rei Ohara (JPN) 2:27:29