A strong Ethiopian men's quartet will be gunning to halt recent Kenyan dominance at the BMW Berlin Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on 29 September.
Guye Adola, who finished second in his marathon debut two years ago in Berlin, as well as Leul Gebrselassie, Sisay Lemma and Birhanu Legese all possess the potential to win at this year's event. Gebrselassie, Lemma and Legese have each triumphed over the marathon distance in the past ten months, running top-class times and all have personal bests in the region of 2:04.
“We expect a men’s race with top performances," said race director Mark Milde, who is still recruiting more top performers. "There’s not much likelihood of a world record attempt but the times are likely to be very fast. In addition, the battle for victory could be a thrilling one that may well lasts until the final few kilometres.”
In the past ten years Ethiopian runners have only won the men’s title in Germany’s most spectacular marathon on two occasions: Haile Gebrselassie in 2009 and Kenenisa Bekele in 2016. Otherwise Kenyans have dominated, breaking the world record four times. The most recent occasion was last year when Eliud Kipchoge ran a sensational 2:01:39 but he will not be running this year.
Legese is the one runner among the Ethiopian quartet who has won an Abbott World Marathon Majors race on 2019. The 24-year-old took the title in Tokyo in March with 2:04:48 in only the third marathon of his career. In 2018 he made a spectacular debut clocking 2:04:15 in Dubai which immediately put him among the marathon elite. Even so, his time was only good enough for sixth in an extraordinarily fast race. Last autumn he finished tenth in Chicago in 2:08:41. Legese has already won one big race in Berlin, emerging as the surprise winner of the city’s half marathon with 59:45 in 2015.
Gebrselassie and Lemma were also in action in Dubai last year, producing personal bests.
While he's not related Gebrselassie to the former world record holder and multiple Berlin winner Haile, he has strong credentials of his own, finishing runner-up in 2:04:02 in the race in the United Arab Emirates 18 months ago. That also was a sensational debut at the distance. At the start of December the 25-year-old cruised to a 2:04:31 course record at the Valencia Marathon. In April this year he finished eighth in London’s highly competitive field.
Lemma finished fifth in Dubai last year, improving his best to 2:04:08. In October, the 28-year-old produced another fine performance to break the course record in Ljubljana with 2:04:58. Three years ago he was fourth in Berlin with 2:06:56. He marked 2015 with victories in Vienna and Frankfurt marathons.
Adola has every reason to have fond memories of Berlin on his return to the race. Two years ago the 28-year-old ran the fastest marathon debut ever, 2:03:46, to finish second. He even managed to put a superstar Kipchoge under pressure, leading until just before the 40th kilometre. Since that debut, Adola, the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships bronze medallist, has struggled with injuries. But he intends to put that behind him in he German capital this year.
Organisers for the IAAF