Competing in the same race in which she broke the world record last year, Florence Kiplagat improved on her own half-marathon mark at the Mitja Marató de Barcelona on Sunday (15).*
Her winning time of 1:05:09 shaved three seconds off her previous world record set 12 months ago. She also set world records* for 15km and 20km en route to her winning performance.
In contrast to the wind and rain battering much of the rest of Spain, Kiplagat's bid to improve her record on the fast and flat course in the Catalan city benefited hugely by almost perfect conditions, with slightly overcast skies and temperatures hovering about 10 degrees Celsius.
Helped by male pacemakers Marc Roig and her compatriot Ezekiel Kipchirchir, she passed through 5km in 15:38 and 10km in 31:02, seven seconds up on her pace from last year.
After covering the next five kilometre section in 15:12, she passed 15km in 46:14, 14 seconds inside Tirunesh Dibaba's world record for the distance.
The former world half-marathon and world cross-country champion slowed slightly in the final five kilometres, covering it 20 seconds slower than she did last year, but was still on world record pace.
Kiplagat passed 20km in 1:01:54 which took two seconds off that world record* for the distance, which she also set in the same race last year as an intermediate time, before hanging on to add a third world record and finishing 12th overall in the race.
Even after her superlative time at 15km, it was far from a foregone conclusion that the 27-year-old was going to go on to break more records.
“I began to believe I could break records at 11km, then I got to 15km and through that was enough, especially as I am preparing for the London Marathon," she said. "I also had to ease back twice in the next five kilometres so I was amazed I was still on world record pace at 20km.
“In the final few hundred metres, my coach (Renato Canova) was yelling at me, ‘C’mon, you can do it', so I just said to myself, 'Right, we are going for it!'”
Ireland's Elizabeth Lee was a distant second in the women's race in 1:14:06.
Switzerland's Tadesse Abraham was a surprise winner of the men's race in a national record of 1:00:42.
Abraham held off the Ethiopian pair of Getu Feleke and Azmerew Mengistu, who were second and third in 1:00:45 and 1:00:48 respectively.
Two of the pre-race long favourites, Kenya's two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui and marathon star Emmanuel Mutai, did not fare so well. Kirui came home sixth in 1:01:22 while Mutai had a day to forget and finished eighth in 1:03:13.
In fact, with good weather and long straight stretches over the final five kilometres, Kiplagat will have been able to see the second-fastest marathon runner ever a few hundred metres in the distance during the final stages of her world record run.
The organisers said that approximately 15,000 runners, more than 25% of which were women, took part in Sunday's race.
Phil Minshull and Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures