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Tergat goes under 2:05 in Berlin

Paul Tergat crosses the finish line in Berlin (Lisa Coniglio)Paul Tergat crosses the finish line in Berlin (Lisa Coniglio) © Copyright

BerlinPaul Tergat crowned the jubilee edition of the 30th Real Berlin Marathon with a sensational new world best. Having not won one of his former five marathon races, the 34-year-old Kenyan became the first runner to achieve a sub 2:05 time in the classical race. Paul Tergat ran 2:04:55. Khalid Khannouchi (USA) was the holder of the former mark, having won the London Marathon in 2002 in 2:05:38. Berlin’s women’s winner was Yasuko Hashimoto with 2:26:32. “This marathon has made history. I am simply overwhelmed”, Paul Tergat said.

Instead of, as expected, running alone during the last few kilometres Paul Tergat had company: Sammy Korir came close again in the last few metres and finished just one second behind. Besides Titus Munji it was Korir who had been Tergat’s most important pacemaker during the race. Munji (Kenya) was third in 2:06:15. These three results made the Real Berlin Marathon the best ever marathon. The average time of the first three Kenyans is still faster than Khannouchi’s former world best. Munji’s result is now the eighth fastest time ever. Additionally no other team has been as fast as those three Kenyan’s, who all belong to the same training group of Dr. Gabriele Rosa. Their team time in Berlin was
6:16:06. In Amsterdam in 1999 the first three Kenyans had run 6:20:26 as a team.

While it was probably not a surprise that Paul Tergat ran a world record in perfect weather conditions with temperatures between 9 and 16° Celsius and no wind, there was another world record in the men’s race which was indeed a surprise: Andres Espinosa (Mexico), the winner of the New York Marathon 1993 became the first master runner to run sub 2:10. Espinosa finished fourth in 2:08:48.

In front of about a million spectators Paul Tergat, who earned 120,000 Euros in Berlin, was helped by two great pacemakers: Korir and Munji, who stayed in the race and both were rewarded with world class times on the new Berlin course with the finish at the Brandenburg Gate. The new course proved that it was as fast as the old one was. It was in the beginning, when the pace changed several times. First the leading group was going too fast, then they slowed too much. So the kilometre splits changed from 2:54 to 3:07. But finally the pacemakers got it right and passed the half way mark as planned in 63:01 minutes.

It was after the 25 k mark (1:14:42), that Tergat pushed the pace himself for the first time. That was when last year’s winner Raymond Kipkoech was dropped. He finally came in fifth in 2:09:21. The Kenyan who had won in 2:06:47 last year, was supposed to be Tergat’s main rival on his way to his first marathon win. Five times before Tergat had missed victory in a marathon.

Tergat had said before the race that he would give everything he had in the second half. But Munji and Korir stayed in front of him a remarkably long time. “I have to thank them both – they have helped me to achieve this world record. In the morning when it was clear that we would have perfect weather conditions we decided to go for the world record. But although they were the pacemakers I expected that they would run the whole race”, Tergat said.

At 30 k (1:29:24) and at 35 k (1:43:59) the three were still together. Meanwhile the split times had dropped clearly under three minutes. At one stage, between 30 and 31 k, they even ran 2:47. It was at 36 k, when Sammy Korir tried to surge away, but he could not drop Paul Tergat. Titus Munji was beaten at this point, but Tergat was now running no longer behind but next to Sammy Korir. It was on the last kilometre, when the two could already see the Brandenburg Gate on Unter den Linden, that Tergat could finally leave Korir behind. But the drama continued for Tergat on his way to victory. He was somehow irritated and did not chose the shortest line through the Brandenburg Gate. And Korir could then almost close the gap again. So there were just a few metres separating the two at the finish line. But both were celebrating in the finish, when they hugged each other. “The last few metres were very exciting. I then said to Sammy simply: ‘we did it’,” Tergat said later.

“I was supposed to run the Amsterdam Marathon – that was the race I originally trained for. But when I saw these very fast split times I decided to stay in the race”, Korir said. He had a marathon best of 2:08:13. It was the same reason for Munji to stay in the race.

“I want to thank my wife, my manager and the organisers who all supported me to make this possible”, Paul Tergat said in a first statement. Later on he added: “There was great support by the spectators, that helped a lot. I think today we got the maximum result that was possible for us. In future I might perhaps be able to run something like 2:04:30. But I don’t expect to be able to run a 2:03.” 

Asked if he was somehow relieved that he finally won a marathon, Paul Tergat said: “I always said I know that my time in the marathon will come if I stay focussed. And felt that I would be able to break the marathon one day. Now that has happened and I am very happy.”

The women’s race was of course somehow pushed into the background because of the men’s event. Yasuko Hashimoto surged away from Emily Kimuria, who is a training partner of Tegla Loroupe, before the 35 k mark. The Japanese, who had a personal best of 2:29:37, finished with 2:26:32. “I hope I will further improve in future”, Hashimoto said. Second place went to Kimuria (KEN - 2:28:18). Third was Ornella Ferrara (ITA - 2:28:28), making her comeback after maternity leave. It was the fourth win in a row in Berlin for Japan after two wins of Naoko Takahashi in 2001 and 2002 and Kazumi Matsuo in 2000.

Results, Men:
1. Paul Tergat   KEN 2:04:55
2. Sammy Korir KEN 2:04:56
3. Titus Munji  KEN 2:06:15
4. Andres Espinosa MEX 2:08:46
5. Raymond Kipkoech KEN 2:09:21
6. Kazuhiro Matsuda JPN 2:09:49
7. Kurao Umeki JPN 2:09:52
8. Andre Ramos BRA 2 :09 :58
9. Makhosonke Fika RSA 2:10:16
10. Javier Caballero ESP 2:10:44

Women:
1. Yasuko Hashimoto JPN 2:26:32
2. Emily Kimuria KEN 2:28:18
3. Ornella Ferrara ITA 2:28:28
4. Ana Dias POR 2 :28 :49
5. Alina Ivanova RUS 2:29:00
6. Monika Drybulska POL 2:29:58