Kenyan runner Joseph Gitau outpaced Polish Olympian Henryk Szost to take the lead for the last eight kilometres and secure a surprise win in the Fukuoka international marathon on Sunday.
The Japan-based 24-year-old, who belongs to the JFE Steel athletics club in Hiroshima, clipped nearly 15 minutes off his personal best of two hours 21 minutes and 54 seconds to cross the finishing line in 2:06:58.
Japan's Hiroyuki Horibata failed to clear the required time to qualify for the world championships next year, finishing second in 2:08:24, while Szost, ninth in the London Olympics, came in third in 2:08:42.
Ethiopian running legend Haile Gebrselassie, the Fukuoka champion in 2006, abandoned the race shortly after passing the 32 kilometre point.
"Before the race, I had never thought of winning it, so I'm really happy about it. I've been in Japan since my high school days and I was able to run comfortably," said Gitau, 24.
Meanwhile, Gebrselassie said: "I started feeling pains to my left thigh after 28 kilometres and I couldn't move a step forward after 32 kilometres, so I stopped. It was a disappointing result, but I continue to run."
When the last pace-setter left the race at the 30 kilometre point, six runners, including Gebrselassie, Gitau and Szost, remained in the front-running group.
After Gebrselassie dropped out, Gitau and Szost took the lead ahead of Horibata, Martin Mathathi of Kenya and Arata Fujiwara of Japan after passing the 33 kilometre mark before Gitau took the sole lead from 34 kilometres.
Mathathi, who also trains in Japan, abandoned the race after passing the 38 kilometre mark.