Berlin Marathon 2007 - Race Preview
by Sharon Ekstrom
Sunday, September 30, 2007 marks the thirty-fourth running of the Berlin Marathon. One of the fastest courses in the world will host the return of the male and female defending champions, both of whom dominated the 2006 race: Haile Gebrselassie finished four minutes ahead of his competition and Gete Wami finished with almost a two minute lead over her competition. With the approach of the Ethiopian millenium [Ethiopia has its own year numbering system], these two Ethiopian stars will return as the strong favorites with goals beyond simply repeating their victories. Geb is looking to set a world record and Wami is aiming to take the lead in the World Marathon Majors point's race.
Haile Gebrselassie is arguably the greatest all-around distance runner with twenty-three world records. His goal in Berlin is to set a new World Record - besting the 2:04:55 record set by Paul Tergat at the 2003 Berlin Marathon. "Geb," whose career began on the track, has been collecting gold medals and records. In 2001, Geb ran the half marathon at the World Championships and won gold. Since then he has won every half marathon he has run, including a World record at the 2006 Rock 'N' Roll Marathon. Geb debuted in the marathon at the 2002 London Marathon placing third with a 2:06:35 finish time - the fastest debut marathon in history.
Geb's win at the 2006 Berlin Marathon was a National Record, but it was not good enough - it was 61 seconds short of the World Record. Geb dropped out of the 2007 London Marathon in April due to shortness of breath, but demonstrated his strength by running a 59:24 Half-Marathon on a hilly course in New York in August.
Gete Wami, like her compatriot, has a history of top performances in track and cross country with medals in the 10,000 meters at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, as well as a number of World Championship titles. Wami began her marathon career with a win at the 2002 Amsterdam Marathon (2:22:19). But 2006 was her break through year with a win and personal best of 2:21:34 in Berlin. 2007 has been a consistent year for her. With a second place finish of 2:21:45 at the 2007 London Marathon, Wami holds the second fastest marathon time of 2007. Scheduled early on to defend her title in Berlin, she surprised many when she announced her decision to run two fall marathons - Berlin and New York City - which are only thirty-five days apart.
A victory for Wami could put her in the running for The World Marathon Major's prize purse whose first 2006/2007 bonus will be determined at the finish of the 2007 New York City Marathon. If Wami wins the Berlin Marathon, she takes the lead in World Marathon Majors points race and could win $500,000 USD. If she finishes in second place, she will battle it out against current first place leader at 2007 New York City Marathon Jelena Prokopcuka, the defending champion of the NYC Marathon. This increases the mounting excitement at Berlin this year.
The Rest of the Field
Haile Gebresallisie is the star at Berlin - the rest of the field are supporting actors. The backdrop of the story is the Berlin course where four years earlier Paul Tergat set the world record at the Marathon - 2:04:55 - while being paced the entire distance by Sammy Korir who finished one second behind in t he second fastest marathon of all-time. Korir returns to Berlin again, with a hope to push Gebrsellasie through the finish. Korir's last two marathons saw him drop out of the 2006 Berlin Marathon and also dropping out of the 2007 Tokyo Marathon - so his success at Berlin is not guaranteed. Other men to watch include Philip Manyim the winner of the 2005 Berlin Marathon in 2:07:41 and James Kwambai who finished as runner-up at the 2007 Boston Marathon.
The Women -
Among the women, Wami seems unbeatable, and is a clear favorite. Nonetheless, Naoko Sakamoto may be able to give Wami a run for her money. With only four marathons in her career, Sakamoto has less experience than the other women in the field, but her debut at the 2003 Osaka Women's Marathon in 2:21:51 (third place) showed that she is capable of a superb finish. Sakamoto went on to place fourth at the 2003 World Championships, win the 2004 Osaka Women's Marathon and place seventh at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004. Sakamoto has not run a marathon since 2004, but her marathon PR remains less than thirty seconds slower than Wami. Japanese women have run the three fastest times ever recorded at Berlin and this history may work in Sakamoto's favor.
With the lead stories of an attempt on the world record and the return of the 2006 champions, the Berlin Marathon will be an exciting event. And, of course, anything can happen over 26.2 miles....
|Prize money (Euros)||Men||Women|
|TIME BONUSES (Euros)||Men||Women|
|1st Sub||2:06:30 - 30,000 ||2:21:30 - 30,000|
|1st/2nd Sub||2:07:30 - 15,000||2:23:00 - 15,000|
|1st/2nd/3rd Sub||2:08:30 - 7,500||2:25:30 - 7,500|
|1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th/6th Sub||2:09:30 - 2,500||2:27:00 - 2,500|
|WORLD RECORD ||50,000||50,000|