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Mutai Ready to go For the World Record in Berlin
When the fastest man in the marathon world meets the fastest course in the
marathon world, the odds are in favour of something special. In Berlin that
usually means a world record, of which there have been no fewer than seven
in the past 15 years. The most recent was last year, by Patrick Makau of
Kenya, 2.03.38 in a race during which he destroyed former record holder,
the legendary Haile Gebrselassie.
It would be hard for Sunday's 39th BMW BERLIN MARATHON to reproduce such an
incident-packed race as last year, but Makau himself is in little doubt
that compatriot Geoffrey Mutai will break his record, saying in an email
this morning (Friday), "I know that they are capable of setting the fastest
time over the flat Berlin course (which would be a WR). We have been
training together in Eldoret and they are geared up for the event".
The "they" includes Mutai's training partner and marathon debutant, Dennis
Kimetto, whose 59.14 half and world record 25k (71.18), both here in Berlin
this year, promise much.
Mutai finished second here to Makau two years ago, in 2.05.10, in a
rain-sodden race. But he had an "annus mirabilis" the following year,
running an extraordinary 2.03.02 to win Boston (on a course not accepted
for WR purposes), then winning New York in another course record, 2.05.06.
In contrast, 2012 has been disastrous for Mutai. He had to drop out of this
year's Boston, suffering from the hot conditions, a reversal which prompted
the Kenyan selectors to ignore him (and Makau) for London 2012. "I was
disappointed not to finish Boston, and the selection was Athletics Kenya's
decision," said Mutai at Friday morning's press conference in central
Berlin, "but it has given me motivation to run well here."
Proof of that is that Mutai and company have requested a pace of 61.40 for
the first half. Whereby hangs a tale, of Boston. When you've run the
fastest time in history, world record or not, the suggestion that it wasn't
all your own work evidently rankles. Someone asked what time Mutai thought
he might have run, had there not been a gale force breeze behind the pack
in Boston 2011.
"The race started at a very fast pace," related Mutai. "I only realised how
fast at halfway, and I asked myself if we could even finish running at that
pace. I didn't feel the wind when I was running. But there were 12 of us,
running fast, there isn't a pacemaker in Boston. People afterwards said it
was the wind, but they didn't give credit to the runners."
There is of course the little matter of the drop between start and finish,
which prevents Boston being accepted for record purposes; but since there
is a lot of up and down in between, runners maintain Boston is just as hard
The contrast, and advantage of Berlin from Mutai's perspective is, "because
of the hills in Boston you can not go with the same speed, but the Berlin
course is flat, so you can maintain the same speed". Mutai had a bad cough
and cold two weeks ago, but maintains he is fully fit and raring to go. He
hesitated when asked what percentage chance he gave himself of breaking
Makau's record, but retreated behind a circumspect, "I'll do my best."
Not only will he have Kimetto for company, but race director Mark Milde is
trying to make Mutai feel as comfortable as could be possible by enlisting
other members of his training group as pacemakers.
Should Mutai and Kimetto falter, another colleague Jonathan Maiyo (2.04.56
in Dubai in January) should be thereabouts to pick up the pieces. But
despite his marvellous 2011, Mutai emphasised that he still has much to do.
"I've not reached where I want to be in my career," he said "finally, I'm
still looking for that."
Whether Mutai finds it here on the streets of Berlin, and whether or not he
breaks Makau's world record on Sunday, there will be a nice irony in the
finishers' medal he will be handed after crossing the line. It bears the
likeness of – Patrick Makau.
The women's race: Aberu Kebede targets sub 2:20 time and may have company
When Aberu Kebede woke up the morning after her arrival on Wednesday, and
saw the rain sheeting down on a sombre Berlin, she must have though that
she was in for a re-run of the marathon two years ago, remembered locally
as "the rainy race". But since she won that one by over a minute, in
2.23.58, a shower or two for Sunday morning's 39th BMW BERLIN MARATHON
might have seemed like a good idea.
Not a bit of it. "Oh, no, I'd prefer pleasant conditions, no rain, and not
too cold," she said at the press conference yesterday. And it looks like
she's going to get "pleasant conditions"; the forecast is for temperatures
between around 8C (46F) at the 9 am start, to around 13C (55F) by midday,
with little or no wind.
Both Kebede and training partner Tirfi Tsegaye reckon the 2:20 barrier is
within reach. Kebede would have broken the Ethiopian record with her
2.20.33 in Dubai in January this year, but for the minor inconvenience of
three of her compatriots finishing ahead of her, with winner Aselefech
Mergia taking both victory and the national honours with 2.19.31.
But Bezunesh Bekele, who had finished over a minute behind Kebede in Berlin
2010 was a few strides ahead of her in Dubai. That and the presence of
training partner Tirfi Tsegaye here in Berlin will give impetus to both of
them. Tsegaye won a windy Paris Marathon earlier this year, in 2.21.40, but
both feel that their training sessions in the hills of Entoto, just outside
the Ethiopian capital of Addis Abeba have set them up to join the sub-2.20
"I wanted to come back here, after winning two years ago," said Kebede, "I
feel confident I can produce another good result. If everything goes well
on Sunday, I think I can run under 2.20. That's my aim."
Tsegaye said, "Yes, we train together, but there's no real rivalry,
although obviously we both want to win. I think I can improve on my 2.21.
We'll run together from the start, then see what happens," added Kebede.
Another Ethiopian contender, Ashu Kasim ran a personal best 2.23.09, to
win in Xiamen (China) at the beginning of the year; and much is expected of
marathon debutante Kenyan Caroline Chepkwony, who finished third in this
year's Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON, but won the Berlin 25k in May.
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