Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge wins Berlin Marathon

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge crosses the line to win the 44th Berlin marathon in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge held off the challenge of debutant Guye Adola to win the Berlin Marathon

BERLIN — Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge held off the challenge of debutant Guye Adola to win the Berlin Marathon on Sunday.

The Kenyan finished in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 32 seconds, missing out on the world record by 35 seconds in wet conditions.

"That was my hardest marathon ever," said Kipchoge, who said he still believed he was capable of beating the 2:02:57 run by compatriot Dennis Kimetto on the same course in 2014.

"The conditions weren't ideal. It rained. Luckily there wasn't too much wind. In the end I'm just happy to have won against Adola," Kipchoge said.

Adola finished 14 seconds behind, and the Ethiopian surprised by pushing Kipchoge hardest. Defending champion Kenenisa Bekele fell behind and then former world-record holder Wilson Kipsang dropped out.

"That's sport," said Kipchoge, who won the Berlin Marathon in 2015 despite flapping insoles in his shoes. In May, Kipchoge ran 2:00:25 in an event that didn't confirm to international rules on Monza's race-track in Italy.

Gladys Cherono won the women's race in 2:20:23, ahead of Ethiopia's Ruti Aga and fellow Kenyan Valary Ayabei.

"Last year I was injured and thought I would never run at this level again," said Cherono, who also won in 2015.

Former winners Kipchoge, Bekele and Kipsang — the world's three strongest marathon runners with personal bests all under 2:03:30 — were targeting Kimetto's record before the race but were hampered by misty drizzle.

The favorites all passed the halfway mark in 1:01:29, accompanied by Adola and Vincent Kiproto, but Bekele looked to be in trouble and fell out of contention shortly afterward.

Kipsang suddenly stopped at the 30-kilometer mark, leaving Kipchoge and Adola to duel it out.

The debutant made his move with around five kilometers remaining, but Kipchoge stayed on his tail and drew level by the 40-kilometer mark before pulling away for the victory.

"You cannot control the weather," Kipchoge said. "It was not what I came here for but I'm happy with the result."

Adola's time of 2:03:46 was the fastest debut on a record-eligible course.

While the drizzle dampened the top three's hopes of breaking the record, it provided relief for the majority of the 43,000 runners with more modest ambitions.

Several had their own records to beat, including Bernardo Castro Dominguez of Ireland, who wanted to run the men's fastest marathon dressed as a lucha libre wrestler; Jennifer McBain of Britain who dressed as a hot dog to beat the women's record for a marathon dressed as a fast food item; and Patrick Kennedy of Britain, who dressed as a snowboarder for charity.

The 52-year-old Kennedy ran the London Marathon while playing a mandolin.

"I thought this would be easier because I don't have to play the mandolin," Kennedy said of his 11th marathon. "Ich bin ein snowboarder."

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