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Rabbit Run

Will one of the rabbits win again?

2002-09-27

Three world records in four years attracts top runners to the Berlin Marathon, and two of those heroes - Naoko Takahashi and Ronaldo da Costa are back this year for Sundays race. But aspirant champions are more interested by the fact that the mens event has been won for the last two years by the pacemaker.

Simon Biwott, the winner in 2000 went on to even greater things in the World Championships in Edmonton last year, when he did so much to make it the best marathon finish in history, only losing in the final stride to Gezahegne Abera of Ethiopia. For good measure Biwott won Rotterdam in April this year. His Kenyan colleague, last years winner Joe Ngolepus is also back. And they won need warning that their colleague/pacemaker, Fred Kiprop could upstage them and make it three rabbits in a row.

Kiprop is the ninth fastest man in history, with his 2hr 06min 47sec victory in Amsterdam three years ago, but his management says that he is not on top form, and will act as pacemaker up to "28 kilometres or so". Its the "or so," that should worry the rest of the guys, because thats the advice given to Biwott and Ngolepus over the last two years.

They are sanguine about their (and Kiprops) chances of victory this year. Biwott said today (Friday), "Normally I don worry about pacemakers, but if he feels strong at 30k, and thinks he can win, the best of luck to him, I can complain".

Ngolepus concentrated on his own chances, "Ive been training hard, I think Im in the same sort of shape as last year, my aim is to improve on my time". Brazilian da Costa has never reproduced the form which took him to 2.06.05 here in 1998, but he reiterated the problems that beset him after that world record, armed robbers attacking the house that he was building out in the countryside near Sao Paulo, and further threats which caused him to flee to California. He said, "Ive been training well at 2,500 metres in Colombia, I don think I can find the form of 1998, I just want to run well again". This might be a race too far for Moses Tanui, but critics have been saying that about the 37 year old Kenyan for years now, and he keeps winning, most recently in the Vienna Marathon. "The biggest problem for me is that the younger runners follow what Im doing, if I speed up, they speed up, if I slow down, they slow down, Id just like to run my own race".

Adriana Fernandez was the focus of the fifty or so Japanese media travelling to see if Takahashi can repeat her world record feat of last year. The Mexican, winner in New York in 1999 is testing the widely held theory - cf Ingrid Kristiansen, Liz McColgan, Sonia OSullivan - that she will run better after having a child, Daniel, last November. "I feel stronger in training," she said, and was immediately backed up by another marathon mum, Helen Kimutai. Perhaps Daniel can test another (genetic) theory in 20 years time, if he becomes a runner, since his dad is Rodolfo Gomez, who finished second in another great marathon finish, to Alberto Salazar in New York in 1982.


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