Paul Lekuraa, a Kenyan from the Masai Mara, shrugged of fatigue and a splitting headache to break Alpha Bank Athens Marathon race record by two minutes Sunday in Athens, Greece.
In an enthralling finish in the Panathenaiko, the marble stadium built for the 1896 Olympics, Lekuraa, a 35 year old in only his second marathon, outsprinted his rival to win in two hours, 12 minutes and 42 seconds, with Julius Kiprotich given the same time.
They beat last year’s race record time, by another Kenyan Kiprotich Benjamin, by one minute, 58 seconds.
Paul Kogo, another compatriot, finished third in 2.12.49.
Lekuraa, who arrived late for the Athens marathon, owes his participation in Athens, if not a large part of his victory, to former world record holder, Paul Tergat.
Lekuraa moved to the Ngong Hills, near Nairobi, just four months ago to join Tergat’s training group.
At that stage, Lekuraa hadn’t raced abroad for two years, since his debut at a marathon in Venice.
The women’s race was won by favourite Mai Tagami, whose parents travelled from Japan just the day before to watch her victory in her 20th marathon.
Tagami, 28, ran with Russian Elena Tikhonova until halfway in just over 79 minutes, but like Lekuraa, she ran the second half faster to win in 2.36.58.
She is now targeting the Osaka Marathon in mid-January, one of the Japanese selection races for the IAAF World Championships in Berlin next summer.
The Greek titles were won by Georgios Karavidas, in 2.22.18, and again by Georgia Ampatzidou, who finished third overall, in 2.40.53