Such is the breadth of experience to sharpen the competitive instincts of the men’s field for the 41st edition of the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON on Sunday (September 28), that the race to the finish line close to the Brandenburg Gate could see the world record broken almost as an afterthought. The talk among the leading competitors on Friday was of solid preparation and readiness to profit from past Berlin success or take a plunge into new territory. The BMW BERLIN-MARATHON is an IAAF Gold Label race and a World Marathon Majors (WMM) event.
Dennis Kimetto is quietly spoken even by laid-back Kenyan standards but there is no mistaking the intent of the man who broke the course record with a personal best of 2:03:45 to win Chicago last October. He is one of the contenders who knows just how fast this course can be. In 2012 he lost his running dynamo a few strides from the finish line which was enough for his training partner Geoffrey Mutai to surge to victory. All this on his marathon debut and setting the fastest ever time of 2:04:16 for first timer at the distance. “I know I am ready. My preparation has been good and I’m confident for Sunday. If the conditions are good, yes, we could break the world record.”
That would be the second year in succession that the Kenyan flags have flown in celebration along the Avenue of June 17, where the starting gun will set just over 40,000 marathoners in motion at 8.45 am on Sunday. Last year Wilson Kipsang sliced 15 seconds off the world record with his time of 2:03:23. As the fastest man in the field, Dennis Kimetto’s time in Chicago was only 22 seconds slower. Provided he has recovered from a leg injury which forced him to drop out of Boston in April, he represents a formidable force.
In terms of consistency, few can beat the marathon cv of Emmanuel Mutai. It shows just one victory, when he set the course record in London in 2011 in what was then a personal best of 2:04:40. However, if you were looking for a man to give you a place on the podium whatever the course or conditions, he is Mr Reliable.
“What I’ve learned in training and running marathons is perseverance. When we’re in competition, if you lose first place, you fight for second or third. I keep on fighting for what I want to achieve.”
For all his experience, this is a Berlin debut in the city’s marathon for Emmanuel Mutai. He knows all about Dennis Kimetto’s capabilities, having finished seven seconds behind his fellow Kenyan with a personal best of 2:03:52 in Chicago last October. Mutai has been doing his homework on Berlin for quite a while.
“I’ve read about the world records that Haile set here, studied the course and split times and watched races on TV. Family commitments meant I didn’t watch Wilson Kipsang’s world record live last year but I made sure I watched it on replay.”
Geoffrey Kamworor offers, like Dennis Kimetto, the example of an elite runner who lives up to the lyrics of a German hit parade song of long ago which includes the line about “Always having a suitcase in Berlin.” The 21-year-old won the World Half Marathon title in Copenhagen in March but first came to prominence when he captured the city’s half marathon title in 2011, fresh from winning the World Junior Cross-Country gold medal. One year later and aged 19, he made his marathon debut in Berlin and finished third in 2:06:12 and repeated that podium place last year. Sunday will be his sixth competitive appearance in the city.
“I feel at home here and it feels good to run here. My training has gone well and with this confidence, I am aiming for the win. I’m getting stronger all the time and these days have been able to do more long runs in training which boosts my confidence.”
If one man can break the Kenyan ranks, it is likely to be the pocket rocket form of Tsegaye Kebede. His consistency at least matches that of Emmanuel Mutai and makes impressive reading: 18 completed marathons and all but three of them showing top three finishes. A narrative thread also links the Ethiopia’s marathon bronze medallist in 2008 with both Mutai and Kimetto: the runner from Gerar Ber, some 40 km from Addis Ababa, also set his current personal best in Chicago with 2:04:38 for victory in 2012.
Kebede has shown a readiness to adapt even when his career is at its height. The champion in London 2010 and then three years later in addition to his Chicago success. He credits the coaching partnership of Getane Tessema and the Italian Renato Canova with more emphasis on speedwork.
“I used to do more long runs but now we concentrate more on speed. I made this change over the past two years. I’ve heard about the Berlin course from Haile and have always wanted to run it. Now I have the chance.”
The success of this change in focus has brought rewards. Not only is Tsegaye one of the favourites for the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON on Sunday, he won the most recent series of the World Marathon Majors. In the current two-year competition for 2013-2014, he also leads the men’s ranks in pursuit of a $500,000 payday.
Men’s Elite Field for the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON and their personal bests:
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