Nicholas Chelimo, 27, of Kenya, put on two surges to separate himself from the pack after the 21st mile, allowing him to distance himself from the pack en route to winning in 2 hours, 15 minutes, 18 seconds.
"I am very happy," Chelimo said.
Chelimo's first surge two minutes into the 21st mile helped him and fellow Kenyan Richard Limo pull away from a pack of four runners. Running next to each other, Chelimo put on another surge about two minutes later near Kalani High School to pull away from Limo.
"The pace was a little bit fast, then slow, then fast slow, then slow. It was very strict," Chelimo said.
Chelimo opened up an eight-second lead at the 22nd mile mark, and his lead continued to grow down the stretch. Knowing that Limo was his biggest competition, Chelimo turned around to check behind him several times. Limo, 30 of Kenya, finished in 2:17:18.
"I knew he would close the gap," Chelimo said. "I know he's very strong."
Limo said he wanted to make a move as well, but didn't have the energy.
Chelimo finished second at the October 2010 Eindhoven Marathon in 2:07:38 and was second at Honolulu in 2009 in 2:13:10.
Belainesh Gebre, a 22-year-old Ethiopian who trains in New Mexico, won her marathon debut by dethroning three-time champion Svetlana Zakharova of Russia with a time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, 13 seconds.
Although she was making her marathon debut, it was Gebre's sixth professional road race win in a row in 2010 and her 13th podium finish of the year. (She also won her first race of 2011, the Naples Daily News Half-Marathon on Jan. 16).
Zakharova filed a protest with the race committee after course photos indicated that Gebre's coach and boyfriend, Ezykyas Sisay, might have paced her much of the way and further assisted her by handing her water cups. But a USA Track and Field official at the scene judged in Gebre's favor after a review of the circumstances.
"We don't think there was any question the coach acted inappropriately," said Jim Barahal, president of the Honolulu Marathon Association.
Gebre did not contact race officials to enter the race as an elite, paid her own registration fee and wore a high rank-and-file number (9670).
Gebre pulled away early in the race, and held a two-minute lead by the 10-kilometer mark.
"I'm so surprised," Gebre said of winning her marathon debut. "I'm so happy."
Zakharova gradually closed the gap on Gebre, but the 40-year-old Russian couldn't catch up, finishing second in 2:33:01.