Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia shattered his own marathon record in
the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON on Sunday morning, running 2:03:59, to
become the first man in history under 2:04 for the distance.
On a morning that he described as perfect, with sunshine and
temperatures rising from 10C (48F) at the 9 a.m. start, to 14C (55F) at
the finish, Gebrselassie followed a quartet of Kenyan pacemakers,
including Abel Kirui, who had finished second in the race last year.
The group of seven passed halfway in 62:04, 25 seconds faster than in
The 35 year old Ethiopian also had a couple of
Kenyan rivals for company. Charles Kamathi was the more intriguing,
since he had ended Geb’s lengthy domination of the IAAF World
Championships 10,000 metres. Geb won in 1993/95/97/99, but Kamathi
relegated him to third in Edmonton 2001.
Kamathi dropped away before the final pacemaker, Kirui, at 35
kilometres, and it was left to the unlikely James Kwambai, whose best
was 2:10:20 , to threaten Geb a little longer.
contest was effectively over by 37 kilometres, as Kwambai relented, and
the tiny Ethiopian was free to enjoy the enthusiasm of the huge crowd,
who have been spoiled by six world records on the fast flat course in
the last decade.
This is Gebrselassie’s 26 th world
record in a career that has lasted close to 20 years thus far, and the
time improves by almost half a minute the world record of 2:04:26 that
he set in Berlin one year ago. It is exactly five years ago, in this
same race that Gebrselassie’s great rival, Paul Tergat of Kenya ran
2:04:55, to become the first sub-2:05 man. Thus in two stages in
successive years, Gebrselassie has taken almost a minute off that
record, and taken it into new territory.
of just how much the marathon has improved since top track runners such
as Tergat and Gebrselassie have assaulted it may be gleaned from a
further bit of Berlin history. When Ronaldo da Costa of Brazil ran the
first men’s world record here in 1998, it was 2:06:05.
“I’m so happy,” said Gebrselassie immediately afterwards. “Everything
was perfect, the weather, the pacemakers. Two weeks ago, I had a little
problem, I ran a 20k forty seconds faster than in my preparation last
year. But I had some cramps, and missed a week’s training. I started
again a week ago, and had some doubts today, but in the end, everything
was fine. This really is my lucky city”.
also becomes the first man to win Berlin three times, and this latest
victory with bonuses nets him €130,000 plus undisclosed appearance
fees. Kwambai held on for second place in 2:05:36, close to five
minutes off his best, and Kamathi was third in 2:07:48.
Irina Mikitenko of Germany won the women’s race in 2:19:19, improving
her best by over four minutes, breaking the national record and
becoming the first German woman under 2:20. Mikitenko, 36, ran a superb
tactical race. She let Askale Tafa of Ethiopia, Rose Cheruiyot and
Helena Kiprop of Kenya race into a long lead, before pegging them back
just after 30 kilometres. In the end, she was over two minutes ahead of
Tafa, second in 2:21:31, also a personal best. Third was Kiprop in
Mikitenko, originally from Kazakhstan, but a
German national since 1996 has had a golden year, apart from missing
the Olympic Games with a back injury. She finished second to Gete Wami
of Ethiopia in Berlin 2007, becoming the fastest German marathon
debutante, with 2:24:51.She was a surprise winner of
the London Marathon, improving to 2:24:14, and relegating Wami to
third. Now she has taken close to five minutes off that best, and with
50 points from two victories, heads the women’s section of the World
Marathon Majors, the five-event series – Boston, London, Berlin,
Chicago and New York – which carries a biennial prize of half a million
dollars for the men’s and women’s winners.