Berlin Marathon - Kenenisa Bekele will lead the Ethiopian Charge for World Class Times

Posted by: Watch Athletics

A super fast and exciting men’s race is in prospect at the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON on Sunday. In Year One of Marathon history after Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya’s fabulous world record of 2:01:39 here in 2018, an attack on the world record has not been a subject for discussion. That isn’t to say that the fastest time in the world this year, Kipchoge’s 2:02:37 in London in April, might not come under threat. The fastest man in the field is Ethiopia’s superstar on all surfaces, Kenenisa Bekele, who ran his personal best of 2:03:03 to win the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON three years ago. The likeliest challengers to the triple Olympic champion are his fellow countrymen. As for the home contingent, the leading German runner is Philipp Pflieger. His priority is running the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11:30 for the Games in Tokyo next year.

The BMW BERLIN-MARATHON already has one landmark for its 46th edition and that is a record entry of 46,983. The marathon runners will set off at 9.15 on Sunday morning on the Avenue of June 17 while the handbikers and wheelchair competitors will be earlier into the action, starting at 8.50am. The organizers, SCC EVENTS, are expecting their one millionth finisher, calculated to cross the line at around 2pm. “It is fantastic to have achieved this figure and shows the great tradition of our event,” said Jürgen Lock, the chief executive of SCC EVENTS.

For the first time the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON will be the final race in an Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) series. In addition to Berlin the series comprises races in Boston, London, Chicago, New York and Tokyo. The BMW BERLIN-MARATHON is also an IAAF Gold Label road race, the highest category awarded by the International Athletics Federation.

“After the fabulous world record by Eliud it was always going to be hard to beat that,” said race director Mark Milde. „I think it’s safe to say we are not going to see a world record attack and people running at 2:01 pace. But I expect there to be a compact lead group, running at around 2:03 finishing time.” With a time of 61:30 for halfway under discussion, a world best for the year would be within reach. For each of the last eight years, the streets of Berlin have been the setting for the fastest men’s marathon time in the world – a record in itself. The BMW BERLIN-MARATHON is by some way the fastest marathon in the world although the world best for the year has never been as fast: Eliud Kipchoge ran 2:02:37 to break the course record at the London Marathon in April.

Kenenisa Bekele hopes to produce a performance close to that of his Berlin win in 2016. “Overall I have prepared well although my training period of three months is perhaps rather short for a marathon. This was because of an earlier injury. But I am ready for Sunday and want to show what I can do,” said the best long distance track and cross-country runner of all time who recently has struggled to produce convincing performances in the marathon.

Victory in all but one of the last nine BMW BERLIN-MARATHON men’s races has gone to a Kenyan. The only one to break this victorious Kenyan sequence has been Kenenisa Bekele in 2016. This year there is good reason to expect a transformation with Ethiopians taking the lion’s share of success. An Ethiopian trio with world class times will be lining up at the start since Leul Gebrselassie has run 2:04:02, Sisay Lemma 2:04:08 and Birhanu Legese has 2:04:15 to his credit. “I have spent five months preparing for this race and am delighted to be in a race against Kenenisa Bekele – I used to dream about this,” said Leul Gebrselassie while Birhanu Legese, winner of the Tokyo Marathon this year, commented succinctly: “I am ready for a fast time.”

While world class times should be the target for the lead group, the priority for Germany’s Philipp Pflieger will be achieving the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11:30. His best of 2:12:50 is 80 seconds slower, set in Berlin in 2015. That performance ensured his selection for the Olympic Marathon in Rio where he finished 55th. “It’s a similar situation to 2015. My preparation has gone well and I’ve achieved 99% of my plan. I believe I can run the qualifying time. I’ll run the first half at that tempo and see how it goes,” explained Philipp Pflieger.

While Philipp Baar, another member of the SCC EVENTS PRO TEAM, has had to withdraw because of a calf injury, a teammate of his should be able to run the qualifying time. Valentin Pfeil is from Austria but has lived and trained in Berlin for the past year. In spring he improved his best with 2:12:55 in Vienna. “I want to improve on that and take the next step forward after Vienna,” said Valentin Pfeil.

Elite Men with their Personal Bests:

Kenenisa BekeleETH2:03:03

Leul GebrselassieETH2:04:02

Sisay LemmaETH2:04:08

Birhanu LegeseETH2:04:15

Felix KandieKEN2:06:03

Jonathan Korir KEN 2:06:51

Yohanes GebregergishERI2:08:14

Kenta Murayama JPN 2:09:50

Kennedy NaibeiKEN2:09:54

Shogo KanezaneJPN2:10:19

Willy Ngelel KEN 2:10:31

Scott OverallGBR2:10:55

Liam Adams AUS 2:11:36 

Guojian Dong CHN 2:11:42

Matt LlanoUSA2:12:28

Yuichi Yasui JPN 2:12:39

Keisuke KusakaJPN2:12:42

Philipp Pflieger GER 2:12:50

Florent Caelen BEL 2:12:51

Valentin Pfeil AUT 2:12:55

Jonathan Mellor GBR 2:12:57

Jens Nerkamp GER 2:17:18

Simon Stützel GER 2:17:51

Timo Göhler GER 2:19:18

Abel Kipchumba KEN Debüt

Bethwel Yegon KEN Debüt

Haron Lagat USA Debüt


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