Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie took advantage of nearly perfect conditions on his favorite course to smash his own marathon world record in Berlin.
|Haile Gebrselassie crosses the line in world record time [GALLO/GETTY]
The 35-year-old became the first runner to finish under 2 hours, 4 minutes when he won the Berlin Marathon in 2:03:59, slashing 27 seconds off his own world record, set in the same race last year.
Gebrselassie again called Berlin his "lucky city'' and thanked a crowd estimated as large as 1 million for helping him set his 26th world record and become the first man to win the race three times.
"Before I came here, I knew I can do something here in Berlin because, since I started running, Berlin is my lucky city,'' Gebrselassie said.
Running under clear, sunny skies in mild temperatures, Gebrselassie paced himself well and controlled the race from the start.
He was way out front on passing through the Brandenburg Gate.
Injury problems prove no problems
Gebrselassie said his training in the buildup to the race was hindered by an injury.
"I had a small calf muscle problem and I stopped for a week, and then I started again a week ago,'' he said.
"Then today I had, you know, some doubts ... but it was really very good.''
James Kwambai, who kept up with Gebrselassie for 36 kilometres, finished second in 2:05:36, improving his personal best by nearly five minutes.
Another Kenyan, Charles Kamathi, was third in 2:07:48. Berlin's flat course often provides fast times.
Five years ago, Paul Tergat of Kenya ran 2:04:55, becoming the first runner to go under 2:05.
Gebrselassie first ran in Berlin in 2006 and clocked 2:05:56 before breaking the world record last year.
In three years, he has improved nearly two minutes on his time.
The Ethiopian chose to skip the Olympic marathon in Beijing because of the city's pollution.
However, he finished sixth in the 10,000 meters, a race he won at Atlanta in 1996 and at Sydney in 2000.
Local girl takes honours
In the women's race, Irina Mikitenko of Germany improved her personal best by more than four minutes to record the seventh fastest time for a woman.
She finished in 2:19:19 to break the national record and become the fourth fastest woman of all time, behind record-holder Paula Radcliffe, Catherine Ndereba and Mizuki Noguchi.
Askale Magarsa of Ethiopia was second in 2:21:31 and Helena Kirop of Kenya finished third in 2:25:01.
Nearly 41,000 runners took part in the race.