As Francois Lhuissier crossed the finish line, his girlfriend was waiting for him with tears in her eyes.
They were tears of joy as Lhuissier, who had not won a marathon before, had everything go his way and won the 36th San Francisco Marathon on Sunday.
"I think I was in better shape than I thought at the beginning of the race," he said. "With all these hills, it's really hard and the last five miles were very tough for me."
The 35-year-old from France won the race with a time of 2:25.13 and finished nearly five minutes ahead of second-place finisher Ismail Ssenyange.
It wasn't even his best time. He ran 2:21:40 in the Philadelphia Marathon in November.
"I really wanted to run a marathon in the late spring or early summer and I like to race in big cities," Lhuissier said. "I really wanted to come here, it's a really tough one."
The top women's finisher was Anna Bretan, 28, who set an unofficial women's record with a time of 2:42:25 and finished ninth overall.
She finished in second place in last year's race and beat her own time by more than seven minutes.
"I had people to chase," Bretan said. "I had someone to run with. It really helps. I feel the best I've felt after a race so far, so I guess I'm training correctly and moving in the right direction."
Bretan, who lives in Berkeley, went to both the University of San Francisco and San Francisco State.
"It just feels like home," Bretan said. "I love this course and I felt great today."
The top San Francisco men's finisher was Max Haines-Stiles who came in fourth place a time of 2:36.55.
It was his first time running the San Francisco Marathon and he had not trained in nearly a month due to an illness.
"It's great to be running on the same roads that I train on, seeing the same sights," Haines-Stiles said. "It's a little bit of a change of pace, though, when you're looking at your shoe wishing it was all over as opposed to an easy stroll on the weekend."
The race, which began on The Embarcadero near Mission Street at 5:30 a.m., featured the regular 26.2-mile race as well as a double marathon, two half marathons, a 5k run and a kids race.
Michael Wardian, who finished third in last year's men's marathon, repeated his 2012 performance with a third-place finish and a time of 2:30.18.
1. Francois Lhuissier: 2:25:15
2. Ismail Ssenyange: 2:30:11
3. Michael Wardian: 2:30:18
1. Anna Bretan: 2:42:26
2. Devon Yanko: 2:52:27
3. Anna Li: 3:02:07