Driss El Himer: „I want to win and break the European record“
We spoke with Driss El Himer,
the top European challenger in the real,-Berlin Marathon 2005 :
What are your ambitions in racing here in Berlin?
Driss El Himer: My main objective is to win! But I also want to break the European record (2:06:36 held jointly by Antonio Pinto of Portugal and Benoit Zwierzchiewski of France), especially because it is also the French record. (Driss’ best is 2:06:48, achieved in finishing 4th in Paris, 2003)
The weather forecast suggests that it might be around 20 degrees Celsius on Sunday morning. Would that kind of temperature be a problem for you?
Driss El Himer: For me, the ideal weather conditions for a marathon would be 10 degrees, maybe even 15. But 20 degrees is not too bad, so I don’t mind.
Have you seen the course for yourself and do you know that it’s supposed to be very fast?
Driss El Himer: I haven’t seen much of the course but I know that it’s very flat and that is fast.
Whom do you consider as your main rival?
Driss El Himer: I think that Michael Rotich of Kenya (the fastest man in the field with his time of 2:06:33 in winning in Paris, 2003) will be the main rival, though I shall have to watch out for several of the Kenyans. But Rotich is the one I plan to keep a special eye on.
Do you have a particular strategy planned?
Driss El Himer: The race director has set up a pace maker to take the lead group through halfway in 63 minutes. I plan to be in that leading group. Wherever Rotich goes, I will be with him.
Do you plan to attack at a certain point?
Driss El Himer: If the pacemaker takes us to 30 kms, then I think I’ll attack sometime after that, but it depends.
You were born in Morocco but now have French citizenship after serving in the French Foreign Legion. How did that come about?
Driss El Himer: I was in the Moroccan junior team that ran in the World Cross-Country Championships at Amorebieta in Spain in 1993. I was 18 then. By chance I met a general from the Legion who was at the prize-giving, Christian Piquemal. He was very keen on sport, he had a cousin who was French national cross-country champion. He was trying to build up the sports teams of the Legion and suggested I join. So I did and several other Moroccans followed, including Mohammed Ouadi, but I was the first.
Did that mean you received French citizenship straightaway, or was it after your time in the Legion?
Driss El Himer: I became a French citizenship after three years in the Legion, that’s the normal practice. I was stationed at Aubagne and Marseilles, but now my wife and I live in Strasbourg. (Driss left the Legion in 2001 after serving his statutory five years)
We didn’t see much of you in competition this year. Why was that?
Driss El Himer: I was injured for three months, had a tear in my right hamstring and couldn’t run. Otherwise I would have run the Rotterdam marathon in April. I ran in the Olympics but didn’t do well (68th in 2:29:07) but Athens was very tough, it was so hot!
Now you’ve recovered, where have you been preparing for Berlin?
Driss El Himer: At home in France, including altitude training at Font Romeu. I’ve been running up to 220 kms per week, feel very fit and ready to race.
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