(Reuters) - A smiling Eliud Kipchoge broke away from a pack of three in the closing three kilometers to lead a Kenyan clean sweep in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.
Defending champion Rita Jeptoo won the women’s race to continue Kenya’s dominant day.
In ideal conditions, Kipchoge, a former world 5,000 meters track champion, clocked two hours four minutes and 11 seconds to claim his third marathon title in only four races at the distance. He narrowly missed his personal best of 2:04:05.
Sammy Kitwara (2:04:28) and Dickson Chumba (2:04:32) finished second and third.
The three Kenyans were closely bunched at 36km before Kipchoge made a decisive move at a little rise in the course and was never challenged.
“I can say I am now a fully experienced (marathoner),” the 29-year-old who won 5,000 meters medals, but never the gold, at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, told reporters.
“It was like a championship. I missed a little bit (my target of my personal best) but I am happy.”
A slow early pace wiped out any chance at a course record or fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57 set last month in Berlin.
Race co-favorite Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, who often raced Kipchoge on the track, fell off the pace after about 25 kilometers and finished fourth in 2:05:51 in only his second marathon.
Jeptoo needed 2:24:35 for the women’s victory as she became the first woman to win four consecutive major marathons.
“I am the queen of Chicago,” the 33-year-old Jeptoo proclaimed.
She too made a decisive move to add to her 2013 and 2014 victories in Boston and last year’s Chicago title.
Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba was a well-beaten second in 2:25:37, 20 seconds ahead of Kenyan Florence Kiplagat.
American Amy Hastings, the early leader, took fifth in 2:27:03.
American Tatyana McFadden continued her superb women’s wheelchair form, winning her third consecutive World Marathon Major of the year in 1:44.50.
Another Illinois athlete, Joshua George, won a sprint for the men’s wheelchair race, clocking 1:32:12 for his fourth Chicago victory.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond