ETHIOPIAN runner Kenenisa Bekele marked his marathon debut by setting a new course record in Paris at the weekend.
The 31-year-old crossed the line in two hours, five minutes and two seconds, beating the previous record - set by Kenyan Stanley Biwott in 2012 - by 8 seconds.
He was nearly two minutes behind Wilson Kiprotich’s world record of 2h 03min 23sec, but his impressive run is the sixth fastest debut in marathon history.
It is also the fastest run over the 26.2-mile distance by anyone over the age of 30.
Fellow Ethiopian Limenih Getachew finished a comfortable second in 2hr 06min 49sec.
After the race, Bekele said: ‘It was my first marathon and I didn’t have much experience.
‘It was very tough but it was the time I expected.”
Bekele’s impressive debut comes a week before Briton Mo Farah competes in his long-anticipated first marathon in London next weekend.
The Ethiopian, 31, was the first man to do the ‘double double’ - the quadruple of world and Olympic 5000 metres and 10,000m titles that Farah achieved in his absence in 2012 and 2013 - and also beat the Briton in the Great North Run last September after a long injury lay-off.
Kenya’s Flomena Cheyech won the women’s race in 2hr 22min 42sec, the fourth fastest time for a woman in Paris.
The course record for women is 2hr 21min 06sec, set last year by Boru Tadese.