Mark Korir caused a surprise when he won the 39th edition of the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon, crossing the line at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in a personal best of 2:05:49 on Sunday (12).
Korir took more than a minute off his previous best of 2:07:08, set when he finished second at the 2013 Seoul Marathon.
Although he has had some success over shorter distances, particularly 10km and half marathons in South America, this was without doubt the biggest win of his career.
He overhauled his Kenyan compatriot Mike Kigen with just over five kilometres to go, after the latter had tried to run away from the rest of the elite field about 32 kilometres into the race.
The leading pack went through the halfway point in 1:03:23 but the pace steadily increased in the second half of the pace and Kigen passed 35km in 1:44:18.
After the race, Korir admitted: “I didn’t expect to win at all, and I did not expect such a great time. I knew there were a lot of strong guys in the line-up who had run below 2:07, so the victory today was quite a surprise for me.”
The 30-year-old, who trains in Iten in Kenya, finished second at the Paris Half Marathon last month in 1:00:48.
“I knew training had been going great recently, so at around 33 kilometres I thought that there was a possibility that I could win; however I did still realise that I was racing some great competitors.
“I didn’t go off with Kigen at the beginning because I wanted to run at my own pace and it worked out very well. I am very pleased with this PB.
“Although today was a great, injury-free race, I think I can go even faster than my time today. I believe I can go as fast as 2:04. I used to run track in high school but I wasn’t very fast,” said Korir.
As Kigen flagged badly over the final 5km, eventually finishing fourth, another Kenyan Luka Kanda came through for second place in a personal best of 2:07:20. Third was Ethiopia’s Seboka Tola who ran 2:07:33.
The first 10 athletes to cross the line in Avenue Foch were either Kenyan or Ethiopian, with Frenchman Abdellatif Meftah finishing in 11th place in a time of 2:11:11 the first domestic runner home.
Ethiopia's Meseret Mengistu made a massive breakthrough to win the women's race in 2:23:24, taking almost six minutes off her best in a race which saw a thrilling finish.
Her compatriot Amane Gobena edged ahead with two kilometres to go only for Mengistu to fight back and go past her in the final 500 metres.
Gobena finished second in 2:23:29, improving by 21 seconds from a previous best of 2:23:50 at the 2013 Dubai Marathon.
The first three women home all ran personal bests with Kenya’s Visiline Jepkesho, winner of both the 2014 Milan and Lisbon marathons, finishing third in 2:24:42, improving by more than two minutes.
Three Ethiopian runners followed: Meskere Assefa was fourth in 2:25:58, Marta Megra fifth in a personal best of 2:26:20 and Biruktayit Eshetu sixth in 2:26:48.
Local hope Sophie Duarte, the 2013 European cross-country champion, dropped out after 33km of her debut marathon.
Mengistu, 25, was only ranked 12th on time going into the race although she was reasonably well-accustomed to winning over the classic distance as she had victories in Cape Town, Omsk and Bali to her name from her previous 10 outings.
The organisers announced that 41,342 had participated in the 2015 Schneider Electric Paris Marathon, with a total of 150 nationalities represented. In this year’s event, more than 40 per cent of the participants were runners from overseas.
Starting on the Champs Elysée, the runners passed many of the French capital’s most historic landmarks, including the Place de le Bastille, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.
Miriam Walker-Khan for the IAAF