Edwin Kibet Koech won the Dalian International Marathon on Sunday in China with the first ever sub-2:10 performance in the 32-year history of the IAAF Bronze Label road race, taking more than three minutes off the course record with 2:09:44.
The 30-year-old, whose personal best of 2:08:17 was set in Eindhoven three years ago, outraced defending champion Willy Ngelel to enjoy a sole lead during the last six kilometres before going on to break the course record of 2:13:03 set by compatriot Julius Maisei back in 2012.
A crowded lead group paced the race to the 10-kilometre mark in 30:54 and passed the first 20 kilometres in 1:02:00.
The group shrank rapidly after the halfway point with only eight runners left at the 25-kilometre mark in 1:17:14. After another five kilometres, the leaders were down to four: Koech, Ngelel and Ethiopian duo Habtamu Wegi and Chalu Gelmisa.
The quartet remained together for another two kilometres before the 21-year-old defending champion launched his surges. The Kenyan's efforts saw both Wegi and Gelmisa drop away before 33 kilometres, but Koech managed to keep up.
The pair fought back and forth over the next three kilometres with a series of unsuccessful mini-breaks. Koech finally seized the sole lead after 36 kilometres and kept pushing ahead as he went on to win in 2:09:44.
The top five finishers all managed to beat the previous course record. Ngelel set a PB of 2:10:31 in second place, bettering his career best by 19 seconds. Wegi also improved his lifetime best as he held off compatriot Gelmisa to take third place in 2:12:17.
Pre-race favourite Mulu Seboka overcame a stomach problem in the late stages to win the women's race in 2:28:59.
The 33-year-old Ethiopian, whose PB of 2:21:56 made her the second fastest entrant in the field, controlled the pace for most of the race. She led a leading pack of five runners to pass five kilometres in 17:33 before reaching the water tables at 10 kilometres in 34:47.
After 14 kilometres, the vastly experienced Seboka launched a powerful charge to break clear of the others. She covered the section between 10 and 15 kilometres in just 17:05, the fastest five-kilometre split of the entire race.
Seboka continued to extend her leading margin and was on track to challenge the 2:26:12 course record that has stood since 2011, but gastrointestinal discomfort after 30 kilometres prevented her from doing so.
She stopped twice for a short while after 34 kilometres, and although she managed to continue, her speed decreased significantly. But thanks to the huge advantage she had built up, the Ethiopian claimed the title with a margin of more than three minutes.
Defending champion Ednah Mukwanah came home in 2:32:06, 52 seconds faster than her winning mark in Dalian last year.
Rodah Jepkorir of Kenya finished third in 2:32:53, a 3:10 improvement on her PB. It was the 27-year-old's first podium finish since her marathon debut in 2017.