Kenya's Dennis Kimetto broke the marathon world record* at the BMW Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:02:57 at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (28).
His time took 26 seconds off the previous mark, set in the same race last year by Wilson Kipsang.
In second place, fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai was also inside the previous world record with his time of 2:03:13, taking 39 seconds off his previous best.
Ethiopia's Abera Kuma was a distant third in a personal best of 2:05:56.
Kimetto covered the first half in 1:01:45 and increased his pace in the second half with a closing 13.1 miles of 1:01:12. He shook off Mutai, his last remaining challenger, with less than five kilometres to go.
"I feel good because I won a very tough race," Kimetto told local reporters. "I felt good from the start and in the last few miles I felt I could do it and break the record. I believe I can improve it further. I’d like to return and try to break it again next year."
With temperatures about eight degrees Celsius at the start, Kimetto was among the leaders from the gun and a seven-man group formed at the front of the race just before the halfway point.
The pacemakers kept up the tempo with the world record as the target but at 30km, reached in 1:27:37 - itself a world record * and an improvement of one second on the intermediate time ran by Kenya's Patrick Makau in the 2011 Berlin Marathon - the racing started in earnest between a three-man leading group consisting of Kimetto, Mutai and world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who started to put daylight among themselves and the rest of the field.
Kamworor was the first to fold, starting to struggle from 33 kilometres onwards and eventually finishing fourth in 2:06:39.
Mutai twice attempted to attack but Kimetto stayed strong and never let the gap grow to more than a few metres and the pair passed 35km in 1:41:47, inside 2:03 pace. After making his move just before 38km, Kimetto then passed 40km in 1:56:29, exactly the same split that he had en route to winning at the Chicago Marathon last October.
In contrast to that race almost 12 months ago, when Kimetto weakened slightly and the world record slipped from his grasp by 22 seconds, this time there was no denying him.
His performance in the German capital also bettered the fastest time ever achieved on any marathon course, surpassing the 2:03:02 clocked by fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai in 2011 on Boston's record-ineligible point-to-point course.
While Kenyans took the top two spots in the men's race, there was Ethiopian success in the women's race with Tirfi Tsegaye winning in 2:20:18, the fastest time in the world this year, and holding off compatriot Feyse Tadese, who clocked 2:20:27. USA's Shalane Flanagan was third in 2:21:14.
Flanagan took an early lead in the women's race in her bid to break the US record, which still stands at 2:19:36 to Deena Kastor from 2006, and passed the halfway point in 1:09:38.
However, the American started to slow fractionally between 25km and 30km and was overtaken by the Ethiopian trio of Tsegaye, Tadese and Tadelech Bekele. Not long afterwards, Tsegaye made a decisive move to head off on her own, passing 35km in 1:55:37, 11 seconds ahead of her compatriot Tadese, and was never headed.
Bekele was overtaken by Flanagan four kilometres from home but still made a very impressive debut over the classic distance when finishing fourth in 2:23.02.
There were 40,004 runners from 130 nations who entered the race.
Jon Mulkeen and Phil Minshull for the IAAF
*subject to the usual ratification procedures.