A record number of 35,000 runners from 91 nations will compete in Sunday’s jubilee edition of the Real Berlin Marathon. But the focus of this 30th edition, which is Germany’s most prestigious road race, will be mainly on one man: Paul Tergat, who already is the second fastest marathoner of all times with a personal best of 2:05:48.
The 34-year-old runner, five times World Cross Country Champion, hopes to become number one on Sunday.
During the press conference there was another one of Kenya’s greatest runners sitting on the podium: Tegla Loroupe. She has already achieved what is Paul Tergat’s goal on Sunday. Four years ago Loroupe produced one of the greatest results in the history of the race, when she won the Berlin Marathon in a world best of 2:20:43.
So Tegla had some encouragement for Paul Tergat: “I wish you the best of luck. You will realise on Sunday what I have experienced: that this is a very fast course and that the spectators are simply fantastic.
“I love the Berlin Marathon. So please Paul bring the world record to Berlin and don’t leave it somewhere else.
“I think if the weather is good and Paul is well prepared that he really has a chance of breaking the world record,” Loroupe said, and added: “But this is a marathon – and you never know what is going to happen.”
Tegla will also race on Sunday, but instead of running the whole distance she forms a relay with three others runners for charity. Tegla Loroupe supports the Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German World Food Programme). “I am happy to do this as I know how important the help is for African people,” Loroupe said. So she will run the first 15 km on Sunday and then watch the event live on the screen.
It was in the London Marathon 2002 when Khalid Khannouchi (USA) ran the fastest race so far with 2:05:38. Paul Tergat was just ten seconds behind in second place.
Various reports from Kenya during recent weeks suggested that Tergat is in very good shape. But the athlete was cautious when asked about the possibility of beating Khalid Khannouchi’s time on Sunday. “I have trained very hard for this for the last four months. And I believe I am in very good shape. But if you are aiming for a world record, everything has to be perfect on the day. I will try on Sunday – and we will all see the result,” was his reply.
While understandably cautious three days before his race, he had made clearer statements in Runner’s World Germany that he has trained for the World record. “If everything is fine on the day I know that I can run 2:05 or may be even under 2:05.”
Back in Kenya Tergat is reported to have run up to 41 km in training. “I realised during my previous marathons that after 38 km a lot depends on mental strength. So that is what I specially trained for.”
Despite being the second fastest marathoner of all times and having run five marathons, so far he has never won. Tergat was second in his first three races and then fourth twice: London 2001, Chicago 2001, London 2002, Chicago 2002 and again London this year. So there is another goal in Berlin: winning. “I don’t care that much that I have not yet won a marathon. If I continue to perform well and run fast then I am sure my time will come. It is also a question of experience. And I have some experience now.”
His main rival on Sunday will probably be one he knows well: Raymond Kipkoech. The 25-year-old Kenyan belongs to the same training group of Italian manager and coach Gabriele Rosa. A year ago Kipkoech was a surprise winner of the Real Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:06:47; in 1999 another of Rosa’s athletes, Josephat Kiprono, won in Berlin (2:06:44). Rosa said after that race: “If Paul Tergat should ever run the Berlin Marathon a result of 2:05 or 2:04 could be possible for him.” On Sunday we will know if Dr. Rosa’s prediction was right. It was made at a time when Tergat was still concentrating on the track.
Another one to watch on Sunday will be the European Champion Janne Holmen. The Finn, who sensationally won the Gold in Munich last year, will run his first marathon since those championships. His goal will be the 25-year-old Finnish record of 2:11:15 (Esa Tikkanen/Boston 1978) and possibly a time sub 2:10. “Janne is in a much better form than last year. This is because he fully concentrated on preparing for this race for the whole season. Additionally his training was not disrupted by injuries or allergies, of which he suffers. It is the first time that preparations went so well”, his manager, Jukko Härkönen, said.
In comparison the women’s race will not be as strong as the men’s. Unfortunately hopes for a German win were dashed last Sunday. Sonja Oberem (Bayer Leverkusen), who was third in last year’s European Championships, had to withdraw due to a muscle injury she suffered during training.
Instead there is a chance for Japan to make it four in a row after victories for Kazumi Matsuo and Naoko Takahashi (2001 and 2002). Yasuko Hashimoto could be in to continue the win streak. But there are a number of others to watch: Alina Ivanova (Russia), the former World race walking champion who turned to running after being disqualified in the 1992 Olympics after crossing the line first, Renata Paradowska (Poland) or Ornella Ferrara (Italy).
Also Liz Yelling could produce a surprise. The British runner will run her debut marathon in Berlin. She is a training partner of Paula Radcliffe and has the same coach: Alexander Stanton. It is much more difficult to predict who will reach the new finish first in the women’s race. Organisers have changed the course. So the jubilee edition of the race will finish just 300 metres after athletes have run through the Brandenburg Gate.