Ethiopian distance running great runs a personal best of 2:03:03 to go second behind Dennis Kimetto on the all-time marathon rankings

Kenenisa Bekele lifted himself to second on the all-time list after a blistering victory in the BMW Berlin Marathon, finishing just six seconds off the world record with a winning time of 2:03:03.

The Ethiopian world record-holder over the 5000m and 10,000m went toe-to-toe with former marathon world record-holder Wilson Kipsang, producing the winning effort inside the final two kilometres of the race to close in on Kenyan Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 world record, set on the same course two years ago.

A big group, led by Geoffrey Ronoh, held world record pace consistently up until the 25km mark before Kipsang, who ran a personal best of 2:03:13 for the runner-up spot, stamped his foot down and dragged the lead group of seven out as he looked to lay down his authority, bringing only the 34-year-old Bekele along in his wake.

A 14:30 split between 30-35km gave Kipsang, up to joint-third on the all-time list, a lead of around 25 metres over Bekele but the diminutive Ethiopian pegged him back as Kipsang’s extra effort began to show and the record began to look a distant prospect.

The pair were shoulder-to-shoulder at 40km when Bekele stepped on the accelerator, registering 2:47 between 41-42km to chip away at Kimetto’s time and eventually through the tape to beat Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge’s time of 2:03:05 from London earlier this year – a race where Bekele finished third. Evans Chebet, running alone for much of the final 20km, came third in 2:05:31.

The women’s race proved to be less dramatic as Aberu Kebede led an Ethiopian one-two-three, opening up a gap of around eight seconds between team-mates Birhane Dibaba and Ruti Aga inside the first half of the race and finishing in 2:20:45.

Kebede, now a three-time winner of the Berlin Marathon with her last victory coming in 2012, continued to increase her lead despite her own pace dropping in the second half of the race, eventually finishing 3:13 ahead of Dibaba in 2:23:58 and Aga further back in 2:24:41.

Britain’s Charlotte Purdue looked set for a good race herself with a finish projected of around 2:30 after 20km, but the 25-year-old withdrew from the race before the halfway stage.