BERLIN -- Former Olympic and world champion Kenenisa Bekele staged a thrilling comeback to win the Berlin Marathon on Sunday, dramatically missing the world record by just two seconds as he recorded the second-fastest time in history.
The Ethiopian, winner in Berlin in 2016 and the world record holder over 5,000 and 10,000 metres, finished in two hours one minute and 41 seconds, agonisingly close to Eliud Kipchoge's world-record time despite a full sprint in the final 400 metres.
"I felt a little pain in the beginning so I dropped behind," Bekele said after the race.
"After a few kilometres I started relaxing so I tied to push a little bit.
"I am very sorry. I am not lucky. I am very happy running my personal best. But I still can do this [world record]. I don't give up. It is encouraging for the future."
Bekele was part of a group, including fellow countrymen Birhanu Legese and Sisay Lemma, that soon broke from the pack with a quick pace.
Legese, winner of this year's Tokyo marathon, gradually shook off Bekele and then Lemma after the 30km mark.
But Bekele battled back, leaving Lemma in his wake, and reined in Legese to cruise ahead before launching his thrilling sprint towards the finish line.
"I was recovering [from injury] only three months ago," Bekele said.
"My preparation was not 100%. Fantastic result but I feel sorry missing marathon record by two seconds."
Legese took second place in 2:02:48, the third-fastest marathon time in history. Lemma was third, another 48 seconds behind.
In the women's race, Ethiopian Ashete Bekere beat Mare Dibaba in a sprint to the finish to win with a time of 2:20:14.