Third consecutive trip to the victory podium for Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin (Freelance) © Copyright
General News 29 September 2008 – Berlin, Germany

Gebrselassie looking at the bigger athletics picture, Women’s WMM battle heats up

Berlin, GermanyThe 35th edition of the real,- Berlin Marathon - an IAAF Gold Label Road Race - did produce a number of records and a whole lot of personal bests. But Haile Gebrselassie sees a much bigger picture which athletics has achieved this year.

“Of course it is difficult for athletics to challenge football, but meanwhile our sport is making really great progress. We have plenty of new stars like Usain Bolt or Yelena Isinbayeva,” said the King of distance running, who himself of course belongs to the group of the sport’s superstars as well.

And he played a major part on Sunday to make running even more popular worldwide: the 35 year-old Ethiopian clocked a World record** time of 2:03:59 in Berlin, thus becoming the first athlete to break 2:04.

“Running is very important in the whole world. Everyone can profit from it. It does not matter if you are the President of the United States or any other person. If you run you will profit because it is a healthy sport,” added Gebrselassie, who has now run 19 official World records plus seven unofficial world bests.

Thrilling finish promised in second Women’s World Marathon Majors series

The World Marathon Majors (WMM) will see a thrilling finish of the 2007-2008 series – at least in the women’s competition. Taking Berlin in a sensational 2:19:19 Irina Mikitenko became the fourth fastest women runner ever at the distance.

But with her win she now is the joint leader of the second series 2007-2008. Mikitenko is now tied with Ethiopia’s Gete Wami, with both tallying 65 points. There are two remaining races in this series: Chicago on 12th October and New York on 2nd November. To improve her points tally Wami, who will run New York, will have to finish either first or second. That is because there is only a maximum of four races which can be counted. And Wami has already run four.

Mikitenko has run just three WMM races – and these were the only Marathons of her career so far: The 36-year-old German was second in Berlin 2007 and then won London and Berlin.

But in contrast to Wami, who ran New York last year to win the first WMM series 2006-2007, Irina Mikitenko has decided against competing in New York.

“When I run a Marathon in the future I want to run as good as in Berlin again. So with just five weeks in between that is really not enough to recover and come back in top form. I want to run well next year again,” Mikitenko said. As the defending champion there will hardly be a way around the London Marathon in April. And the World Championships in Berlin in August are also on her list.

Two other runners could still win the women’s WMM series 2007-2008: Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) and Zhou Chunxiu (China) would need to win either Chicago or New York to take the pole position. If there should be a tie after New York between Wami and Mikitenko the head-to-heads would count. But here the score between the two is tied at one apiece. The final decision would remain with the five WMM race directors, who would vote after the New York race.

So Mikitenko will most likely travel to New York although she will not race. Instead she can lean back on the VIP stands at the finish in Central Park, watch the race and still might end up winning the jackpot, a $1 million prize shared by the men’s and women’s winner.

Standings of the WMM Series 2007-2008:
MEN -
 1. Martin Lel  (KEN)    76 points
 2. Robert K. Cheruiyot  (KEN)   55
 3. Haile Gebrselassie  (ETH)  50
 4. Abderrahim Goumri  (MAR)  40
 4. Samuel Wanjiru  (KEN)  40
 6. James Kwambi  (KEN)  31

WOMEN -
1. Irina Mikitenko  (GER)  65 points
1. Gete Wami   (ETH)   65
3. Chunxiu Zhou (CHN)  50
4. Catherine Ndereba (KEN)  41
5. Constantina Tomescu Dita  (ROM)  35
6. Lidiya Grigoryeva  (RUS) 30
6. Jelena Prokopcuka   (LET)  30
8. Dire Tune (ETH) 25
8. Paula Radcliffe  (GBR)   25
8. Berhane Adere   (ETH)  25

2008-2009 (3rd series):
MEN -
1. Samuel Wanjiru  (KEN)  40 points
2. Martin Lel  (KEN)  26
3. Haile Gebrselassie  (ETH)  25
3. Robert K. Cheruiyot  (KEN)  25
5. Jaoud Gharib  (MAR)  15
5. Abderrahim Bouramdare  (MAR)  15
5. James Kwambai  (KEN)  15

WOMEN -
1. Irina Mikitenko   (GER)  50 points
2. Dire Tune (ETH)   25
2. Contstantina Tomescu Dita (ROM)   25
4. Askale Tafa Margasa  (ETH)    16

Berlin by the numbers

There are more notable statistics concerning Berlin and the world’s best Marathon races. After the World record by Gebrselassie and the superb runner-up time by James Kwambai, who improved to 2:05:36, Berlin is again the fastest men’s Marathon concerning the average top ten times ever run.

Berlin has overtaken London in this list with 2:05:33.6 average. London is second with 2:05:57.6 while Chicago takes third with 2:06:15.0. In the women’s list London leads with 2:19:46.8 while Chicago (2:20:42,9) and Berlin (2:21:00,4) follow.

The strong position of the World Marathon Majors races becomes also obvious concerning the size of the races. Here Berlin improved strongly on Sunday as well. On Sunday a record number of 35,913 runners and walkers reached the finish line at Brandenburg Gate. Last year’s record stood at 32,600. And in fact Berlin became the fifth biggest marathon ever on Sunday. This list is also dominated by WMM races:
 - The biggest marathons ever (finishing figures) -
38,956  New York City Marathon 2005
38,607  New York City Marathon 2007
37,866  New York City Marathon 2006
36,868  Boston Marathon 1996
35,913  Berlin Marathon 2008
35,700  London 2007
35,261  London 2005

And finally, Gebrselassie’s run was the seventh World record in the history of the event:
1977 - Christa Vahlensieck (GER), 2:34:48 *
1998 - Ronaldo da Costa (BRA), 2:06:05
1999 - Tegla Loroupe (KEN), 2:20:43
2001 - Naoko Takahashi (JPN), 2:19:46
2003  - Paul Tergat (KEN), 2:04:55
2007 - Haile Gebrselassie (ETH), 2:04:26
2008 - Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) , 2:03:59
* in German Championships, which were started separately

Jorg Wenig for the IAAF

** pending the usual ratification procedures