NAIROBI, Kenya, September 25- Imagine you have just bought that spanking new Subaru Impreza WRX, Forrester or Outback and in front of you, the Thika Super Highway, with no cops in sight, beckons you in a Miguna Miguna voice, “Come, baby, come.”
Your foot on the pedal, the machine growls to life and as it shifts gears, the road soon passes by in a blur as the speed demon eats up the tarmac, ah! The thrill of speed!
On Sunday, the ‘Subarus’ of ultimate distance running, including our very own speedsters, will take on the ‘Thika Super Highway’ that is the 40th running of the Berlin Marathon where there are no speed limits, only the clock to beat.
One of if not the fastest marathon course on the planet, the streets of Berlin have crowned since 1977, eight world record holders at the distance, including Kenya’s Paul Tergat (2:04:55/2003), Patrick Makau (2:03:38/2011) and Tegla Loroupe (2:30:43/1999).
Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie (2:03:59/2008, 2:04:26/2007) and Brazil’s Ronaldo da Costa (2:06:05/1998) ran their men world records in the race that remains among the most popular in the world, with over 45,000 entries last year.
Besides Loroupe, home girl Christa Vahlensieck (2:34:48/1977) and Japan’s Naoko Takahashi (2:19:46/2001) have set the women’s records at the Berlin course.
As far as the country designated with code 254 is concerned, all eyes are on Wilson Kipsang, 31, who is chasing Makau’s standard bearer in the men’s race with a view of at least matching it or bringing it down.
“My aim is to run the course record in Berlin and if I do that, then we will have a new world record,” the affable but focused runner said ahead of his Wednesday departure for Germany.
Billed as a duel between the two official fastest marathoners on the planet, record holder Makau was sadly forced to withdraw two weeks ago with a bothersome knee.
“Over the past several months the quality of Patrick’s training was at high levels and my impressions while in Kenya during month of July left me believing that something really special would likely happen in Berlin, especially as Patrick’s relaxed and positive attitude with regards to his training had me truly optimistic.
“I do believe that Patrick’s objective at this stage of his career is not just to protect his world record, but to attack it. Sadly, this now might have to wait until next year and all of us at International Athletics Consultancy are to continue to support and assist Patrick in his efforts to continue to test human limits on marathon course,” his manager, Zane Branson said in a statement announcing Makau’s pull-out.
However, Kipsang will not have it his own way since besides the conditions prevalent, he will face the challenge of among others, compatriot and veteran, Eliud Kipchoge, who has turned to the roads after a stellar track career.
Kipchoge was crowned world champion in the 5000m in 2003 and won Olympic bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008. He made an impressive marathon debut this past spring, with a dominating win in Hamburg in 2:05:30.
The power pack that is the 2011 World Cross junior champion, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor is another Kenyan who could scale the heights having paced the race that produced a world record in 2011.
From Brazil, comes the reliable Marilson Dos Santos of Brazil (2:06:38 PB) has already won the New York Marathon twice (in 2006 and 2008) as another fine legs on show in the men’s race.
Florence Kiplagat, who completed the Kenyan double in 2011 with the outstanding 2:19:42 victory in the women’s race returns to head the local quartet that could soar to glory.
Last year’s Boston Marathon champion, Sharon Cherop and Georgina Rono (2:21:39 PB) and debutant Helah Kiprop will take on an imposing field peppered with international quality.
The challengers are led by German marathon record-holder Irina Mikitenko (2:19:19, PB), Desiree Davila (USA, 2:22:38), Isabellah Andersson (Sweden, 2:23:41) and Remi Nakazato (2:24:28) and Eri Hayakawa (2:26:17) both of Japan.
So on Sunday, dear reader, stay tuned to watch whether the Kenyan ‘Subarus’ will make history or will the conditions and competition out-pace them.