With a backdrop of severely tightened security, Sunday's Chicago Marathon made headlines for all the right reasons. In what was the first major US marathon since the Boston bombings, 40,000 runners enjoyed ideal conditions as the city welcomed a new course record holder in Dennis Kimetto, a former subsistence farmer in Kenya.
Before the race, there was a 30-second silence to honour the victims of the Boston bombings. Security was such that there were uniformed police along the entire route, spot-checks were performed on spectators' bags, while tickets were required for anyone entering the finishing area.
Remarkably, Kimetto, 29, has only been running professionally for around 3 years, prior to which he had been growing maize and tending cows. His career took off after a chance encounter with Geoffrey Mutai, the 2011 Boston Marathon winner, who invited him along to his demanding training group. His competitive record is blank up until 2011, but then includes second in Berlin in 2012 and first at Tokyo Marathon in February.
Kimetto, matched by compatriot Emmanuel Mutai, set a fierce early pace, passing through the first 5k and 10k marks at 14:45 and 29:20. The pair were evenly placed until the 40k point, when Kimetto broke away to finish in 2:03:45 - the fourth fastest time in history on an official course. Kimetto's pacing verged on metronomic, running the first half in 61:53 and the second in 61:52.
After the race, the Kenyan said his time came as something as a surprise: "I didn't pay attention to the clock at all. I only paid attention at the end. It was only at the finish line that I saw I broke the course record."
In the women's competition, Rita Jeptoo, winner of Boston Marathon in 2006, secured a convincing victory in a time of 2:19:57. In contrast to the men's field, Jeptoo set a more measured early pace, passing 5k in 16:50, and finishing almost a minute ahead of second placed Jemima Sumgong Jelegat 2:20:48.
Despite temperatures getting slightly warmer as the day progressed, conditions were close to perfect for the 40,000 runners with clear blue skies and a cool breeze. Even with the added security, support throughout was strong, with spectators encouraging participants as they made their way along a course that winds through 29 neighbourhoods.
Race director Carey Pinkowski said yesterday's event underlined the sense of unity in the running world: "I thought everything went really, really smooth. I think the key to that was the messaging to our participants, to our volunteers, this is an example of how resilient and strong the running community is."