BERLIN, Germany, Sep 23 – Long-distance stars Kenenisa Bekele and Wilson Kipsang, a former world record-holder, spearhead a fast elite field for the Berlin marathon on Sunday.
The men’s world record has been broken seven times in Germany’s capital and this year’s race suggests another quick time on the flat course, which does not have the cobble features of the London marathon or the bridges of New York.
Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto set the current world record of two hours 2:57 minutes in Berlin in 2014, shaving 26 seconds off Kipsang’s previous record set in 2013.
Ethiopia’s Bekele, the world record-holder over 5,000 and 10,000m, finished third at the London marathon in April, with fifth place going to Kipsang, who wants his record back.
“My focus will be to run my personal best and even break the world record,” said Kenya’s Kipsang before flying to Germany.
The race — expected to take place in warm sunshine — has attracted several other athletes capable of attacking the world record, including the Kenyan trio of Vincent Kipruto, Eliud Kiptanui and Evans Chebet.
“I think we’ll see a relatively big group in the lead this time since there are a number of athletes capable of going with the kind of pace which will bring a time under two hours, four minutes,” said race director Mark Milde.
“It could be very exciting and -– depending on the weather (if it is good) -– very fast.”
Bekele, a double Olympic champion in 2008, has a point to prove in Berlin.
He was bitterly disappointed at being left out of Ethiopia’s team for the Rio Olympics last month on the grounds he had not run enough big races over the past year, despite finishing third in London.
On paper, the fastest man in Berlin is Kenya’s Emmanuel Mutai, who finished second in Berlin two years ago in 2:03:13, beaten only by Kimetto, who set the world record in the process.
Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Mekonnen, who won the Dubai marathon on his debut over the distance as a 19-year-old in 2014, is another name to watch out for.
Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi will be making his Berlin debut and the 2014 Asian Games bronze medallist’s best performance this year was second in Australia’s Gold Coast marathon in July.
In the women’s race, Ethiopia’s Aberu Kebede leads the favourites having twice won in Berlin (2010, 2012) before finishing second last year behind Kenya’s Gladys Cherono.