Dennis Kimetto has come a long way in a short time.
After swapping his rake and other tools for running shoes three years ago, the former Kenyan farmer no longer tends to corn and cows for subsistence. Kimetto makes a living a different way, and he's now an elite distance runner who made his mark in a big way Sunday at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
On a near perfect weather day, Kimetto shattered the Chicago Marathon course record by 37 seconds, cruising the 26.2 miles in 2:03:45. The previous mark had been set last year by Tsegaye Kebedel.
Kimetto, 29, finished seven seconds ahead of countryman Emannuel Mutai to earn $175,000 in prize money, including a $75,000 bonus for breaking the course record. This was his second straight marathon win as he topped the field at the Tokyo Marathon in February.
"When you run, you expect to win," he said through a translator.
The Kenyans completed a clean sleep with a win on the women's side.
Rita Jeptoo took care of unfinished business from last year with an impressive personal-best performance (2:19:57). She lost by a second in 2012, tied for the closet finish in Chicago Marathon history. This year she finished 51 seconds ahead of her next closest competitor, Jemima Sumgong Jelegat of Kenya.
"Last year I was not ready," Jeptoo said. "This year I was really ready. I knew everyone was going to be strong, so I changed my pace for training and changed my coach."
Jeptoo also pocketed $100,000 for the win and earned an additional $40,000 time bonus for a sub-2:20 finish.
"We had some great performances today," said marathon executive director Carey Pinkowski. "It was a good traditional Chicago Marathon -- fast running. We had great chemistry, too."
Sunday's event was the first major marathon in the United States since the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April.
Security was increased and new procedures put in place for runners and spectators. Before the race began, there was a moment of silence to honor the Boston victims. Race officials reported no security incidents on the course among an estimated crowd of 1.7 million who cheered on the runners.
The men's field surged out to a blistering pace. There were a pack of eight runners, including 2011 Chicago Marathon champion Moses Mosop, who passed the half-marathon mark at 1:01:52. But Kimetto pulled away with Mutai on his heels. It became a two-man race around the 21-mile mark.
Mutai had a hand in helping Kimetto develop as a runner. Kimetto started running a little on his own when he had a chance meeting with Mutai, the Boston and New York City course recordholder, near Eldoret, Kenya. Mutai asked Kimetto to join his training group.
Kimetto finally surged ahead of Mutai for good Sunday around the 40K mark when Mutai missed his water bottle. At the postrace news conference, both downplayed the missed bottle as having any impact on the outcome.
"I am very happy with the way I ran, but I was a bit tired," Mutai said. "I was trying to close the gap. It was a struggle for me."
Kimetto waved to the crowd as he came up Columbus Drive and didn't realize he was going to rewrite the course record until he was close to the tape.
The top U.S. runners were Dathan Ritzenhein at fifth (2:09:45) and Matt Tegenkamp, who placed 10th in his debut marathon (2:12:28).
In the women's race, Jeptoo entered Sunday with a full head of steam. She won her second Boston Marathon title in April by 33 seconds. On Sunday, she was fired up for the rematch against Atsede Baysa, who won it last year.
This pair were part of a pack of eight women who pushed the pace early on, crossing the midpoint at 1:11:15. Russian Maria Konovalova was in control early.
Jeptoo and Sumgong Jelegat finally shed the group around the 25K mark, then Jeptoo said goodbye to Sumgong Jelegat at 35K, dropping in negative split miles. Her final miles where in the 5:10 range. She enjoyed the uncontested final stretch, raising her arms to the crowd and then jumping around after the finish.
"I was feeling strong and was confident," Jeptoo said.
The top American women finishers were Clara Santucci (ninth, 2:31:39) and Melissa White (10th, 2:32:37).