Kenyans are used to watching Rita Jeptoo Busienei chalk up victories in well-heeled, big city marathons abroad, most memorably the 2006 Boston Marathon.
Just last month, Rita was fourth in the BMW Frankfurt Marathon, a race won by Ethiopian Mamitu Daska in a course record two hours, 21 minutes and 59 seconds with Kenyan Agnes Kiprop second in 2:23:54.
On Sunday, Rita ran her first major local race, winning the Kass Marathon and saying her participation and victory served to encourage upcoming runners. Quite a patriot.
And she earned herself a perfect Christmas gift, a cool Sh1.5 million winner’s prize.
Upstart Paul Koech upset the form book to win the men’s marathon as cabinet minister Margaret Kamar, MPs Linah Kilimo and Elijah Lagat - the latter also the 2000 Boston Marathon winner - and huge crowds watched.
Jeptoo formed the leading pack which had road race greats among them Violah Bor, third last year, Faith Cheruto and 2009 Amsterdam Marathon winner Madgaline Chemjor, in the first 12 kilometres before the fight reduced to Bor, Cheruto and new talent Chepkorir Loisakat.
The 28-year-old Jeptoo then stepped up the pace as she approached 24km point near her rural home in Mosoriot, blasting way from the more than 16 athletes.
The mother of two eased to victory in two hours, 36 minutes and 15 seconds, ahead of Bor (2:41.30) and Cheruto (2:41.42), having sped off from the leading pack of six at the 36km mark.
Loisakat (2:41.42), Rosaline David (2:45.04) and Maximella Koros (2:47.12), Mercy Ptikany (2:48.56), Pameli Anisomon (2:49.21) and Agnes Losialima (2:49.32) followed.
Jeptoo, who wound up fourth at the 2008 New York Marathon before she broke for maternity leave, said: “I happy to win here at home as I am used to watching local races only.
“I think I have set the pace for the young athletes today and I dedicate the win to my son Shem Kipkoech.”
The men’s winner Koech’s casualties in his maiden marathon included former world cross country junior medalist Peter Kosgei and avid road-racer Donald Sambu.
The 23-year-old Koech denied Isaac Kosgei a title defence, the latter having dominated up to four kilometre mark, as he trailed him from the six-kilometre mark, and claimed the high stakes 42km race victory in 2:15.49.
Kosgei disappeared off the radar at mid-stream.
Half marathon specialist Donald Sambu (2:16.23), Peter Kosgei (2:16.57) and new catch Kibet Naibei (2:17.16) followed as Titus Kipkorir (2:17. 25), David Kiprono (2:17.56 and Evans Biwott (2:18.00) came in that order.
Koech, an Iten based runner, said: “I just became certain of victory after the 25km point when I realized Kosgei could not take the high pace. I am happy for this is my first 42km competition.”
Joyce Jepkirui, the 2011 Gothenburg marathon winner, outsmarted a strong field to win the women’s 12km race in 40:39.3, ahead of Susan Tanui (41:06.5) and Corethy Jepkoech (41:18.4).
Cynthia Kosgei (41:34.0), Winnie Jepkemoi (41:38.9) and Sally Chebet (41:43.9) followed.