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Makau ran under world-record pace for the entire 42.195km on the flat, fast course through the heart of the German capital to clock 2hr 3min 38sec. It was the fifth time the world men's record had fallen in Berlin.
The defining moment of an epic performance came 27km into the race on a fine, sunny autumn morning.
Makau, running easily in a leading group including four-times world and twice Olympic 10,000m champion Gebreselassie, decided the moment had come to pounce.
He veered across the road, drawing Gebrselassie with him, crossed back and then shot away.
Gebrselassie, who has been suffering from the exercise-induced asthma complaint which has prevented him from running in London's annual spring race on the course where he made his marathon debut, stopped shortly afterwards and stepped off the road.
He bent double in obvious distress and, although he returned to the course in less than a minute, he lasted only another eight kms before stopping for the second and final time.
"I did some zig-zag, at the time he was behind me," Makau said. "I just wanted to run and run. I went to the other side, he followed me, by the time he went back to the other side he was tired."
Gebrselassie, who said before the race he was aiming for a fast time to ensure he qualified for the Ethiopian team for next year's London Olympics, also dropped out of the New York marathon last November and promptly announced his retirement, an impulsive decision he later rescinded.
On Sunday he returned to his hotel and did not talk to reporters but his manager Jos Hermens told reporters Gebrselassie still wanted to cap his career by running in London and intended to keep running.
Hermens said Gebrselassie would now probably run in the Dubai marathon next January to try to clinch a spot in the Ethiopian team.
"It's not the end of Haile," he said. "I think it's the end of an era. There's a new era coming, Kenyans running in the low 2:03s and high 2:02s.
"I know several people in Kenya who are ready to run half a minute faster."
Makau, 26, clocked the 11th fastest time ever at that stage when he won last year's Berlin race in 2:05:07 in heavy rain.
He is a twice world silver medallist over the half-marathon and has run under 60 minutes a record eight times. This year he fell after 22km in the London marathon but recovered to take third place.
Makau said he had thought primarily about winning the race and not about a possible world record when he woke up on Sunday.
"At 32 kms I thought I could win the race and even break the world record," he said, adding that he had used the lure of a world record to spur him on.
"It was hard to for the last 10km," he added.
The women's race was a further triumph for Kenya after their heady performances at the world athletics championships in Daegu where they finished third on the medals' table behind the might of the United States and Russia with seven golds, six silvers and two bronzes.
Florence Kiplagat, another outstanding half-marathon exponent who failed to complete her only previous marathon in Boston this year, went on her own before the halfway stage to win in 2:19:44. En route she set a 30 kms women's record of 1:27:38.
Twice Berlin champion Irina Mikitenko was second and world record holder Paula Radcliffe finished third in her first marathon since she finished fourth in New York two years ago.
Radcliffe's time of 2:23:46 was comfortably under the British qualifying time for the London Games and the Olympic title which has so far eluded her, although she had hoped to run faster.
"In some ways I am happy and in other ways I am disappointed," she said. "At least I have the Olympic qualifying time. Now I have to build on that for London."