The thumbs up Jackson Kiprop flashed at onlookers during the Elite men's race at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Sunday wasn't exactly his appreciation for the support - just his running style. But it was a harbinger of things to come, especially for critics who believed a marathon could not be won leading from start to finish, that too on debut.
The Ugandan defied the odds, negated the fact that the race was all about the Kenyans and the Ethiopians, and made it a race to remember and win the 10th edition of the Mumbai Marathon.
The 26-year-old's maiden effort at the 42.195km distance earned him a new course record of 2.09.32, just 22 seconds short of the previous mark set by Ethiopia's Girma Assefa in 2011.
And to think that Kiprop was never expected to go the distance.
He took up a spot alongside the pacemakers and was to set the pace for the pack after the 30km mark and fade away.
The closest tussle for Kiprop came past the 38km mark when second placed Jacob Cheshari, who too was making his debut and finished well within the previous course record, caught up with him after an effort of his own. But there was no stopping his brute strength, and just 500m later, Kiprop pulled away to open up a gap that extended to over 45m by the next marker.
By then, last year's winner Laban Moiben of Kenya was a mere orange spot in the distance.
Surprises and Ugandans have gone hand in hand after Stephen Kiprotich nailed the marathon at the 2012 London Olympics, pipping two Kenyans in the process. What was earlier a 'surprise' thrown by Kiprop was all put into perspective at the end of the race.
"We lack the facilities to train at home, in addition to the many distractions. So I've been training with Stephen (Kiprotich) in Kenya for the past three months for my first marathon. Leaving home helps prepare for the marathon," he said with a stoic face, the same that refused to emote even at the finish.
Another race, another surprise. This, a big one!
After the Ethiopians dominated the top eight places in the Elite women's marathon last year, predictions were on similar lines. Only this time, there was one small correction atop. It took the raw talent of 20-year-old Valentine Kipketer of Kenya to set another course record of 2.24.33, almost over a minute and a half short of Ethiopian Netsanet Abeyo's mark set last year. The rest on the list, as the script flows, were all Ethiopians.
Two new faces, two new course records. The 10th edition was a cause for celebration when it came to the foreigners.