BERLIN (AP) — Dennis Kimetto knocked 26 seconds off the world marathon record Sunday as the sub-two hour mark moved a step closer.
The 30-year-old Kenyan won the 41st edition of the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours, 2 minutes, 57 seconds, becoming the first man to complete a marathon in under 2 hours, 3 minutes.
The previous record of 2:03:23 was set by another Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang, in Berlin last year.
"I feel good today for today is a big day for me," Kimetto said. "The fans made me confident and I thought I could do it."
Second-placed Emmanuel Mutai also beat the previous record, finishing in 2:03:13, and he believes a two-hour marathon is possible.
"From what I saw today, times are coming down and down. So if not today, then tomorrow," the 29-year-old Kenyan said. "Maybe next time we'll get 2:01."
Mutai had run the fastest marathon in history in 2:03:02 in Boston in 2011, though it didn't count as a world record because the course is considered too straight and downhill.
During Sunday's race Mutai set a world record in running 30K in 1:27:37, just beating Patrick Makau's previous best of 1:27.38 from 2011.
Abera Kuma of Ethiopia was third in 2:05:56, ahead of Kenyans Geoffrey Kamworor and Eliud Kiptanui.
Tirfi Tsegaye won the women's race in 2:20:18, with fellow Ethiopian Feyse Tadese second in 2.20.27.
American Shalane Flanagan was third in 2:21:14, missing out on her bid to beat the U.S. record of 2:19:36, yet achieving a personal best.
"I think it's all about perspective. This year I've dropped four minutes from my overall marathon time," said Flanagan, who led by 18 seconds at the 20K mark.
Ines Melchor of Peru set a South American record of 2:26:48 in finishing eighth, just behind Anna Hahner of Germany, who delighted home fans with a personal best of 2:26:44 for seventh.
Some 40,004 runners from 130 nations were accepted for the race, which was run in perfectly clear conditions.
Kimetto, whose previous personal best was the 2:03:45 he ran to win the Chicago Marathon last year, was part of a leading group including Mutai, Kuma, Kiptanui, Kamworor, Tsegaye Kebede, Levy Matebo and Franklin Chepkwony.
They maintained a steady pace but lost a couple of seconds after the 12th kilometer, before picking it up again after 15K. Matebo and Kiptanui dropped back as the leaders crossed the halfway mark in 1:01:45 — inside world record pace.
Pacemakers Wilfred Kirwa and Geoffrey Ronoh dropped out at 30K, which Mutai reached in a record 1:27:37.
He was only accompanied by Kimetto and Kamworor, who dropped 10 seconds behind his compatriots by the 35th kilometer.
Kimetto was running more smoothly but Mutai kept challenging, reminding the Chicago marathon champion that he was still there.
Kimetto put a couple of seconds on his training partner with an injection of pace in the 39th kilometer, and he used it as the springboard for the seventh world record to be set on Berlin's flat course, the 10th including women's races.