Kenya recorded its first ever double in the Flora London Marathon as Evans Rutto and Margaret Okayo stormed to victories in rainy weather conditions in the British capital today.
A trio of famous starters - IAAF President Lamine Diack, the world's first sub-four minute miler Roger Bannister, and Britain's Rugby World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson - got the racing underway.
There was also drama in both races, Rutto falling at 22 miles and bringing down closest rival Sammy Korir with him, while the women's race saw Okayo seemingly blow her chances by starting too fast and being caught at 11 miles but then come back to win.
Rutto and Okayo were both highly fancied to win, Rutto on the basis on running the fastest debut in history (2:05:50) to win in Chicago six months ago, and Okayo having set course records in each of her last three marathons.
Okayo's build-up had not been ideal, having suffered with a back injury at the recent Lisbon Half-marathon due to the cold conditions and she would not have been encouraged by the wet and cool weather that greeted the 35,000 runners.
Liz Yelling and Galina Aleksandrova were the designated pacemakers. However, during the third mile Okayo and sub-2:20 performer Sun Yingjie forged ahead of the pacers, with Constantinsa Tomescu-Ditsa also well placed.
Okayo's fast early pace doesn't deter Tomescu-Dita
Okayo, wearing a T-shirt over her vest in the early stages to stay warm, had talked about going for the Kenyan record so she soon pushed on ahead of Yingjie.
That third mile was covered in 4:59 as Okayo opened a lead of 100 metres at one stage, but it seemed she had exerted too much effort too soon, as Tomescu-Dita began to close the gap around 10 miles.
Tomescu-Dita, who was aiming for Lidia Simon's Romanian record of 2:22:54, quickly reduced the deficit and swept past Okayo, and with Ethiopia's Gete Wami an early drop-out due to hamstring problems, the hopes of an African victory were not looking too good.
But Tomescu-Dita has not always been the best at pacing, or holding the lead, as she showed losing a two minute lead at the 2001 World Championships and failing to finish the Worlds in Paris after a fast start.
Other marathons in 2003 had seen her inside 2:20 pace until 17 miles in London last year and losing the lead in the final mile in Chicago, so as she pulled away from Okayo the race was clearly far from over.
Dita becomes heavy legged
Okayo firstly stopped the lead increasing and then clawed back to just eight seconds of the Romanian by 16 miles. The former handball player rallied again and began to stetch the gap once more, and with Yingjie two minutes adrift in third, the Romanian's hopes were rising.
Yet by 19 miles, Tomescu-Dita was looking heavy-legged and the lead was closed to five seconds. Within the space of a mile Okayo swept back into the lead and she was never to be caught again, eventually winning in 2:22:35.
She said: "My aim was to run fast but I couldn't go as quick as I wanted because of the weather."
Tomescu-Dita also admitted to finding the cold conditions a problem as she faded to third (2:26:52), caught by Lyudmila Petrova (2:26:02) who took second.
Yingjie, also finding the weather to her dislike, faded to seventh (2:28:32).
Tracey Morris ran 2:33 to pass former Ethiopian Birhan Dagne for the honour of finishing as the first Briton, knocking more than an hour - having run 3:39 when running for charity in 1999 - off her previous best!
Men's Race - Rutto ends Kenyan drought
Evans Rutto became the first Kenyan man to win the Flora London Marathon for 15 years.
It's amazing that the world's leading marathon nation has not won one of the world's most prestigious marathons since 1989, but Rutto finally ended that sequence.
The race had appeared wide open on paper beforehand and through five miles there was a lead pack of 18 still together, with last year's first two - Olympic champion Gezahegne Abera and Italian record-holder Stefano Baldini together at the back of the group.
Abera limps out early
But just a mile later, Abera was out of the race as he suddenly pulled up limping. He said later: "I was in great condition before the race around six miles I hit my leg on the curb and it sent a pain through my Achilles. I am very sad not to have finished the race but it will not prevent me trying to defend my Olympic title."
The remaining 17 stayed together through halfway in 63:10 but Rutto and debutant John Yuda began to stretch it out around 15 miles as the pace increased. A 4:41 mile, followed by 4:47, saw the pack diminish and a 4:35 17th mile saw`Rutto, Sammy Korir and Yuda go clear.
Rutto was the one pushing the pace and Yuda, the twice World Half Marathon bronze medallist, began to slip well off the pace around 21 miles, leaving his training partner Rutto to battle it out with Korir.
Rutto's fall brings Korir down too
There was real drama at 22 miles when Rutto's tired legs saw him collide with a barrier and he was sent crashing to the ground. As he slid across the wet and slippery road he accidentally brought down Korir but the pair picked themselves up and ran together as they recovered from the fall.
Rutto, whose father Kilimo Yano was a 29-minute 10,000m runner who once raced Kip Keino, had appeared to suffer the most in the fall but mid-way through the 25th mile he made his bid for glory and the race was soon over as a contest.
From then on the only man to get near to him was a streaker who ran naked from the crowd in an attempt to get noticed on television.
Rutto finished first in 2:06:18, ignoring the pain of cuts to his knees, and beamed: "It feels great to be champion of the London Marathon. I felt I was stronger than Sammy, but the wet conditions made it harder than it would have been."
Sammy Korir finished in second place in 2:06:48.
World Champion falls too but sets PB
Amazingly, World champion Jaouad Gharib also fell at the same place as the two leaders, banging his head, but he picked himself up to set a personal best of 2:07:02 in third.
He said: "I am delighted with third considering just 10 days ago I was suffering with bronchitis, and a problem with my right leg."
Italy's Stefano Baldini, the World Championships bronze medallist was fourth in 2:08:37.
Bob Frank for the IAAF
1 Evans Rutto (KEN) 2:06:18
2 Sammy Korir (KEN) 2:06:48
3 Jaouad Gharib (MAR) 2:07:02
4 Stefano Baldini (ITA) 2:08:37
5 Tesfaye Tola (ETH) 2:09:07
6 Benoit Zwierzchiewski (FRA) 2:09:35
7 Abdelkader El Mouaziz (MAR) 2:09:42
8 Lee Troop (AUS) 2:09:58
9 John Yuda (TAN) 2:10:13
10 Joseph Kadon (KEN) 2:11;30
1 Margaret Okayo (KEN) 2:22:35
2 Lyudmila Petrova (RUS) 2:26:02
3 Constantina Tomescu-Dita (ROM) 2:26:52
4 Albina Ivanova (RUS) 2:27:25
5 Joyce Chepchumba (KEN) 2:28:01
6 Svetlana Zakharova (RUS) 2:28:10
7 Sun Yingjie (CHN) 2:28:32
8 Alina Ivanova (RUS) 2:28:48
9 Svetlana Demidenko (RUS) 2:33:06
10 Tracey Morris (GBR) 2:33:52
Mile Time Split
1 4:51 4:51
2 9:39 4:48
3 14:16 4:37
4 18:59 4:43
5 23:50 4:51
6 28:43 4:53
7 33:35 4:52
8 38:23 4:48
9 43:11 4:48
10 48:03 4:52
11 52:53 4:50
12 57:46 4:53
13 1:02:38 4:52
14 1:07:34 4:56
15 1:12:15 4:41
16 1:17:02 4:47
17 1:21:37 4:35
18 1:26:20 4:43
19 1:31:01 4:41
20 1:35:45 4:44
21 1:40:35 4:50
22 1:45:24 4:49
23 1:50:33 5:09
24 1:55:27 4:54
25 2:00:18 4:51
26 2:05:17 4:59
Mile Time Split
1 5:16 5:16
2 10:30 5:14
3 15:29 4:59
4 20:35 5:06
5 25:51 5:16
6 31:13 5:22
7 36:37 5:24
8 41:55 5:18
9 47:17 5:22
10 52:43 5:26
11 58:08 5:25
12 1:03:26 5:18
13 1:08:51 5:25
14 1:14:18 5:27
15 1:19:45 5:27
16 1:25:26 5:41
17 1:30:54 5:28
18 1:36:31 5:37
19 1:42:03 5:32
20 1:47:42 5:39
21 1:53:16 5:34
22 1:58:50 5:34
23 2:04:31 5:41
24 2:10:04 5:33
25 2:15:44 5:40
26 2:21:24 5:40