CHICAGO – Just a few years ago, Dennis Kimetto was a farmer, tending corn and cattle in Kenya. Now, he's shattering marathon records.
Six weeks removed from a bout of malaria, Kimetto broke the course mark Sunday in capturing the Chicago Marathon. Compatriot Rita Jeptoo was the women's winner in the first major marathon in the United States since the Boston bombings.
Kimetto finished in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 45 seconds, leading a 1-2-3 finish for Kenyan men. He beat the mark of 2:04:38 set by Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede last year. He pulled away from Emannuel Mutai over the last few miles and was alone with both arms raised as he crossed the line.
It was his second major victory this year to go with a win at Tokyo in February – not bad for someone who not long ago was working the land in the west Kenyan town of Eldoret.
He said through an interpreter that he had been running on his own when he had a chance meeting with Geoffrey Mutai, a star marathoner and fellow Kenyan. Mutai asked Kimetto to join his camp near Eldoret and train with him.
Kimetto finished second in his marathon debut in Berlin last year, won Tokyo and added to his status as one of the world's best Sunday.
Before the race, there was a 30-second moment of silence to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Mutai (2:03:52), the 2011 London winner, also beat Kebede's time but finished 7 seconds off the lead. Sammy Kitwara (2:05:16) was third.
Jeptoo followed her victory at Boston by easily taking her race, finishing in 2:19:57 after losing in a sprint a year ago. There was no one near Jeptoo as she turned into Grant Park, wearing a wide grin and waving to the crowd.
Jemima Sumgong Jelegat of Kenya (2:20:48) was second, followed by Maria Konovalova of Russia (2:22:46).
The winners each earned $100,000. Kimetto gets an additional $75,000 for the course record, while Jeptoo gets another $40,000 for finishing under 2:20:00.
On a sunny day and with conditions ideal, the race drew a Chicago Marathon-record 40,230 runners. But there was a different feel to this event in the aftermath of Boston, where the bombings killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
"It's a testimony to what the marathon is about and what the people who participate in the marathon are about," executive race director Carey Pinkowski said. "They're dedicated and focused and committed. The marathon's a celebration of humanity. This is an example of that."