Emmanuel Bett won his battle with Stephen Mokoka and the howling wind to be crowned Bupa Great South Run king.
The Kenyan star toppled reigning champion Mokoka yesterday to take the 2013 title at the world’s premier 10-mile event.
It proved a showdown between the African aces around the streets of Portsmouth and Southsea at the 23rd edition of the race.
And the notorious last two miles of the circuit proved decisive, with the race decided along Southsea seafront.
With the forecast gale-force winds beginning to build, Bett handled the conditions better than his South African rival after pulling away from Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko.
That saw him cross the line in 48min 03sec – 19 seconds in front of Mokoka (48.21), with Ayeko third (49.08) and Aldershot, Farnham and District’s Andy Vernon an impressive fourth (49.21).
Despite it being his first visit to Portsmouth, Bett was prepared for the winds which rated as the strongest in the race’s history.
Bett said: ‘The last two miles the wind was so strong, very strong.
‘We were running into it and it was hitting the whole of my body.
‘It was my first time here, but people had told me about the wind – now I have experienced it for myself.
‘For me, it was a good race which gave me a good picture of what Portsmouth is like.
‘It also gives me a good picture of what my condition is like and will allow me to go on and win other races from here.
‘It shows me that anything is possible if I can perform well like that in the weather.
‘If I can get good weather in other races I will be able to compete at a very strong level.
‘I felt comfortable. I pulled away for the last couple of miles when I knew the finish line was not that far.’
Mokoka helped set the early pace of the race along with Vernon, Bett and Ayeko. But it was last year’s champ who then pushed proceedings along.
Mokoka admitted he was determined to be a crowd-pleaser at a race he has built a strong affinity with.
He said: ‘It wasn’t a race I wanted to run at the back because I wanted to please the people cheering me.
‘So I pushed the pace because of them.
‘I was feeling good, but the last two miles were too hard for me. I tried to push against the wind but it was pushing me around.
‘I like it here. The more I compete here the more confident I get, and the more confident I am the more I can be competitive.
‘In 2009 the wind was there, and even last year it was the same, but not like that.
‘This year it was the strongest, but you can’t complain that much because it’s the same for everyone.
‘The support is always the same: awesome! They help me and cheer me and that helped me to push the pace.
‘I hope they keep that spirit at this race – and I hope I keep being invited back.’