22 AUG 2009 Report

Event Report - Men's Marathon - Final

(L-R) Kenya's Abel Kirui of Keny and Emmanuel Mutai with Ethiopia's Deriba Merga in the men's Marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin (Getty Images)(L-R) Kenya's Abel Kirui of Keny and Emmanuel Mutai with Ethiopia's Deriba Merga in the men's Marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright

The Championship record was obliterated as Kenya took an historic 1-2 in the men's Marathon - but the leading distance running nation almost made it a podium sweep.

Berlin is a city renowned for producing fast marathon times - the past three men's World records have been set there, including the current mark of 2:03:59 by Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie. But today wasn't about setting World records - it was more about winning medals.

It is not often when the athlete on the start list with the fastest PB ends up winning a championship Marathon, but that's precisely what Abel Kirui, a 2:05:04 man and the sixth fastest of all time, managed here today in Berlin - a city that holds many fond memories for him.

Kirui's first ever Marathon was in Berlin. Initially recruited as a pacemaker in 2006, he held on for the distance and clocked 2:17:47. But he returned one year later and finished second with a PB of 2:06:51 behind a World record-breaking performance by Haile Gebrselassie.

Kirui even considers Gebrselassie as a close friend, having been invited to Ethiopia by the legendary athlete on a few occasions.

But today it was Kirui's turn in the spotlight. His winning time of 2:06:54 smashed the Championship record by one minute and 37 seconds, underlining his status as a marathon star in the making.

On a day of good conditions for marathon running, there were some non-starters, the most notable being two-time World Champion Jaouad Gharib. The Olympic silver medallist from Morocco was unable to recover in time from the back problem he sustained earlier in the year. Daniel Rono of Kenya, a 2:06:58 man who finished second in Boston this year, also did not reach the start line after picking up an ankle injury in training.

As the race got underway, a huge lead pack of around 50 runners, headed by four-time Boston winner Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya, went through the first 5km in 15:09. All the other leading contenders - including Deriba Merga and Olympic bronze medallist Tsegay Kebede of Ethiopia, Benjamin Kiptoo and Abel Kirui of Kenya, and Yared Asmerom of Eritrea - were still in close contention.

The pace picked up slightly from there as Merga put in a 14:58 5km. The lead pack had been whittled down to around 30 runners already, but Dieudonne Disi of Rwanda, Dejene Yirdaw of Ethiopia and Rachid Kisri of Morocco were all in close contact, along with the aforementioned African runners.

Merga and Disi continued to share the lead through 15km (44:57) and were closely tracked by Kenyan trio Kirui, Cheruiyot and Emmanuel Mutai. With a 14:45 split between 15km and 20km (reached in 59:42), eight runners had broken clear - three from Kenya (Mutai, Kirui, Cheruiyot), three from Ethiopia (Merga, Kebede, Deressa Chimsa), Marilson dos Santos of Brazil, and Disi of Rwanda.

The pack went through the half-way mark in 63:03, the fastest ever half-marathon split in World Championships marathon history and faster than the winning time from the 2000 World Half Marathon Championships! Not only were they on course for a fast time, they also looked set to smash Gharib's championship record (2:08:31).

Less than three kilometres later, dos Santos, Kebede and Chimsa had begun to drift back and just five athletes were left at the front. The quintet hit the 25km point in 1:14:38 and the three Kenyans - Cheruiyot, Kirui and Mutai - were in command. But the 5km split of 14:56 suggested that they were beginning to pay for the early fast pace.

Indeed, the pace proved too hot for Disi, who had only ever contested one marathon before Berlin. After 1:21:20 of running he stopped with what appeared to be cramp. He attemped to rejoin the race, but the discomfort was too much to bear and he was forced to pull out.

There were now just four men at the front and a potential Kenyan sweep of medals was beginning to look likely. Merga was the only Ethiopian in the lead pack, while his team-mates Kebede and Chimsa appeared to be out of contention completely.

But Merga kept hopes of an Ethiopian medallist alive as Cheruiyot was the next to fall off the lead pack, having gone through 30km in 1:29:43.

With roughly half an hour of running left, Mutai put in a surge to try to break Merga, but the Olympic fourth-placer held on, as did Kirui. At this point it looked as though the leading three were destined for the podium, but if one were to fail then Kebede looked the strongest of the chasers, having overtaken a fading Cheruiyot.

Not long after passing 35km (1:44:58) Merga began to struggle. Such was Merga's sudden visible discomfort, it looked as though Kebede had a chance of making up the 20-second deficit on his countryman. Four kilometres later, Kebede did just that and moved up into the bronze medal position.

Kirui was away and clear, and he continued to extend his lead over Mutai as he entered the approach to the Brandenburg Gates. Breaking the tape in 2:06:54, Kirui waited almost a minute before his team-mate Mutai came across the line in 2:07:48, also under the previous Championship record.

Kebede had to settle for bronze, just as he had done in Beijing. He clocked 2:08:35 to finish ahead of his fast-closing team-mate Yemane Tsegay (2:08:42). Merga, meanwhile, completely faded in the final stages.

Kenya's Cheruiyot, one of the most accomplished marathon runners in the field, held on for fifth in 2:10:46. Completing the top 10 were Atsushi Sato of Japan (2:12:05), Adil Ennani of Morocco (2:12:12), Jose Manuel Martinez of Spain (2:14:04) and Portugese pairing Jose Moreira (2:14:05) and Luis Feiteira (2:14:06).

Qatar's Mubarak Hassan Shami, the defending silver medallist, was also out of sorts and at one point stopped to tie up his shoe lace. He was 23rd in 2:16:20.

Abderrahim Goumri, a man who is always a danger at big city races but placed 20th in Osaka and did not finish in Beijing, continued his trend of disappointing championship performances and failed to finish. Thirteen other men did likewise, including Yared Asmerom of Eritrea and Benjain Kiptoo of Kenya.

Packing three men in the top six it was no surprise that Kenya, with a combined time of 6:25:28, won the Marathon World Cup team title. Ethiopia grabbed silver (6:32:26), while Japan secured bronze (6:41:05).

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF