Kebede ran unopposed in the final 10 kms to clock two hours five minutes 19 seconds, nine seconds outside the course record set by Kenyan Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru last year.
Chicago champion Liliya Shobukhova won the women’s race in 2:22:00 on a cool damp morning.
Temperatures had been forecast to reach 21 degrees Celsius after a week of warm, sunny spring weather. Instead, there was heavy rain shower at the start of the women’s event, the cloud cover did not lift and the temperature never exceeded 15 degrees.
During the buildup to the race Wanjiru said the Kenyans would run as a team in a bid to win a seventh consecutive men’s title. Prophetically he also said Kebede, who finished second last year after a fierce battle over the final stages, was the opponent he feared most.
The men’s field remained bunched until the halfway stage shortly after Tower Bridge, where Wanjiru, whose training had been hampered by a back injury, started to fade.
World champion Abel Kirui and the world silver medallist Emmanuel Mutai took up the Kenyan challenge but Kebede proved too strong, winning by 64 seconds ahead of Mutai.
The admirably consistent Moroccan Jaouad Gharib, twice a world champion, finished third in 2:06:55.
Shobukhova, 32, one of a host of distinguished track runners who have graduated to the marathon, launched her challenge after the halfway mark.
Japanese Mari Ozaki and China’s Bai Xue tried but failed to keep up with the pace and a final quartet of Shobukhova, compatriot Inga Abitova plus Ethiopians Aselefech Mergia and Bezunesh Bekele were left at the front.
Shobukhova, the European 5,000 metres record holder, always looked confident and strode comfortably over the closing kilometres to win by 19 seconds ahead of Abitova with Mergia in third place.
German defending champion Irina Mikitenko, who was looking to equal compatriot Katrin Dorre’s three successive victories dropped out at 18 kms with an injury to her left foot while British hope Mara Yamauchi finished 10th.
Yamauchi, who took six days to reach London from the United States because of the disruption to air travel created by the Iceland volcano, said she had found it hard to stick with the pace.
‘(It was) just a combination of the journey here and having been injured last year that maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I was last year,’ she told the BBC. ‘The journey to get here tired me out a bit more than I thought.’
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