Once again the weather gods smiled on Cape Town as the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon was held in near perfect conditions.
And South Africa's Stephen Mokoka took full advantage of those conditions to destroy arguably the best field yet assembled at Africa's only IAAF Gold Label Marathon.
Mokoka stuck with the pacemakers like glue until the first pacemaker dropped out at halfway with the second pacemaker pulling off at the 30km mark, before breaking away from Kenya's Philemon Kacherian at 33km.
From there the 33-year-old took control of the race and forged ahead.
"I felt good and decided to go, but I only relaxed and knew I had won the race when I hit the mat at the finish. You know in a marathon it is never over until it is over," said Mokoka.
It was a good day at the office for Mokoka, as he not only won his first marathon on South African soil, but he did it in emphatic fashion, breaking the previous course record of Asefa Negewu by 10 seconds. Mokoka crossed the line in 2:08.31.
Mokoka went through halfway in 1:04.43 with a group containing all the leading names of Albert Korir, Philemon Kacherian, Kenneth Limo, Fikre Assefa and Kipsang Kipkemoi all bunched together some four seconds ahead of Mokoka.
But the wily Mokoka judged his race to perfection as he started to take control of the leaders just before 30km, covered in 1:32.02.
Three kilometres later and he put in a surge that broke the back of the rest of the field. Mokoka covered the 10km from the 30km mark to the 40km on 29:36 and the final 2km in 6:46.
Not only did Mokoka win the overall title, but in the process was also crowned South Africa champion.
Kenya took the next four places as Albert Korir passed a tiring Philemon Kacherian in the final two kilometres to cross the line in 2:09.02 with Kacherian third (2:09.13).
Fourth place was also under 2:10 as Kipsang Kipkemoi came home timing 2:09.21. Nicholas Rotich rounded out the top five with a 2:12.39.
"Winning here in South Africa is a big deal for me," said Mokoka.
"I usually go to Shanghai for my annual marathon, but when I was invited to Cape Town, I knew I had to run here. And winning here is very important to me. Having a home champion is important."
Mokoka is about to become a father for the first time and the win (R265 000) and the course record incentive of R100 000 will be a welcome cash injection.
"The due date is September 26 so I am excited and winning today will make a big difference," said Mokoka.
Namibia's Helalia Johannes went one better than in 2017 as she came home for the win in a course record time of 2:29.28 - some 52 seconds inside the previous course record of 2:30.20 set by Isabella Ochichi of Kenya in 2015.
Johannes made her move around 37km into the race where her surge dropped Tanzania's Failuna Matanga who had done much of the early pace setting.
"It was great to win after last year when I was the pace maker. This year it was all about the win and breaking 2:30 and the course record was big for me. I wanted this win very badly," said Johannes.
Halfway came and went in 1:16.31, with all the main protagonists keeping a close eye on each other. But when Johannes started to push the pace close to 32km, the pack broke up very quickly and at 37km she moved clear of Matanga to come home with a 32 second winning margin.
Matanga crossed the line in exactly 2:30:00, also inside the previous record with Ethiopia's Urge Sokoka Diro rounding out the podium (2:30.31).
"I like running in Cape Town, so I am looking forward to coming back next year if I am invited again," said Johannes.
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon also doubled as the South African Marathon Championships as well as an Olympic Qualifier.
Stephen Mokoka claimed the men's title and Nolene Conrad who finished eighth overall is now the South African Champion, crossing the line in 2:34.39.
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon will be home to the National Championships for the next three years until 2020.
"It is incredible to see how the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon has achieved international renown in such a short time," said race director, Janet Welham.
"Not only do we continue to see great performances, but the field grows every year. Something of which we are extremely proud. We have to acknowledge that without our partners who shared the vision with us from day one, we would not have been able to get here so quickly."
"As someone who was privileged to have raced internationally, it is incredible to see how the world is now coming to South Africa to race here. In the past I had to travel to compete against the world's best, now they come to us. It really is fantastic to see this, and it makes us immensely proud to be a part of putting South Africa and Africa on the world marathon map," said race ambassador Elana van Zyl-Meyer.
The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon offers huge incentives to the athletes competing.
All athletes who break 2:08:00 in the men's race and 2:26:00 in the women's race will, in addition to their position prize money, earn a R25 000 bonus.
All athletes who run a gold label marathon time, i.e. sub 2:09:30 in the men and sub 2:28:00 in the women's race, will earn R15 000 for qualifying as Gold Label athletes.
For South African athletes who run below the IAAF Bronze Label status time of 2:16:00 and 2:38:00 for men and women respectively, there is a bonus of R15 000 on offer. They will also qualify as IAAF Bronze Label athletes.
A course record is also on offer. If the FIRST athlete across the line in the men's race breaks the 2:08.41 men's record - set by Assefa Negewo in 2016 - he will earn a record bonus of R100 000. For the women, the record incentive applies to the 2:30.20 run by Kenya's Isabella Ochichi in 2015.
Ian Kirk, CEO of Sanlam says, "Congratulations to all the 2018 winners and each and every participant in this year's Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. As sponsors of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and Africa's only IAAF Gold Label Marathon, we are honoured to be part of this magnificent journey. We are proud of the milestones that this event and all associated with it have achieved within a short space of time. These achievements have been made possible by the hard work, commitment and dedication of all involved in planning and staging this event."
Kirk added, "Sanlam and Sanlam Cape Town Marathon have a shared belief in the potential of Africa and its people. Through a shared vision, we can unlock the true potential of our continent and its people. The prestigious achievements recorded here today bear testimony to this and the enormous success and popularity of this incredible marathon."