Haile Gebrselassie won the 33rd real,- Berlin Marathon but he missed Paul Tergat's World Record once again over the difficult final stages. In warm conditions with temperatures climbing well over 20° Celsius (70° F.) two hours into the race, the 33-year-old Ethiopian clocked 2:05:56, the fastest in the world this year. Gebrselassie also improved his personal best and national record of 2:06:20 set a year ago in Amsterdam by 24 seconds.
It was the first Ethiopian victory in the history of the Berlin Marathon - and today there were even two as Gete Wami provided an Ethiopian double. She won the women’s race in a world class time of 2:21:34 hours, an Ethiopian record as well. The previous Ethiopian standard of 2:21:52 was set in London earlier this year by Berhane Adere.
Taking into account the really warm temperatures two hours after the start both winning times were excellent.
39,636 runners from 105 nations competed in the race with about one million spectators lining the streets.
Haile now the fifth fastest runner ever
While Gebrselassie’s strongest opponent Sammy Korir (Kenya) dropped out of the race due to a hamstring injury, another Ethiopian, Gudisa Shentema Kudam, finished second behind Gebrselassie. He clocked 2:10:43 with a big gap. Japanese Kurao Umeki finished third in 2:13:43.
In the women’s race Salina Kosgei of Kenya finished second in another world class time of 2:23:22. Third was Poland’s Monica Drybulska clearly behind in 2:30:12. While Sonja Oberem had to drop out at her marathon comeback because of muscle problems, her team mate Melanie Kraus finished sixth in 2:35:37.
Gebrselassie collected 80,000 Euros for the victory while countrywomen Gete Wami collected 65,000. Because of his victory in Berlin Gebrselassie remains unbeaten in the month of September in his international career. From 1992 to the present he won 15 times in the year’s ninth month – eleven times on the track and four times on the roads.
But his big goal, the marathon World record, remained out of reach in his fourth marathon – not counting one race at the age of 15 in Addis Ababa. “I wanted to run faster. But in the end I wasn’t able to push. I will continue to run the marathon and I think I will break the World record one day, I’m sure,” said Gebrselassie, who covered the first half in 62:46 with the support of the pace makers.
But already in the first half of the race the pace had been inconsistent. With one pacemaker after another dropping off, it was only Kenyan James Kwambai who remained until he ended his services at about the 28 km point. At 30k and 35k (1:29:06/1:43:37) it looked as if Gebrselassie could be successful in his quest, but between 35 and 40 km it looked different again.
This had been Tergat’s strongest part in the race in 2003, while once more, it was the weakest part for Gebrselassie. With seven kilometres to go, he had an advantage of 22 seconds on Tergat’s record. However at 40 k, it turned into a 22 second deficit. For the 40th kilometre, he clocked 3:14. “Already at half way I somehow knew that it would not work. But the last seven kilometres were really hard, I could not push.”
Phoning from his home in Kenya, Tergat said, "It is never easy to break a World record. But I have to congratulate Haile because his performance was a really great one.”
Confidence boost for Beijing 2008
For Gebrselassie, “The victory in Berlin has given me more confidence for the marathon at the Olympics, though I have to qualify for the Ethiopian team for Beijing first! I was confident before Berlin that I would run well and this performance shows that I’m one of the best in the marathon. I’m not bad at all!”
“What do I think of Tergat’s World record now? I admire Paul greatly but I think I can break the marathon World record sometime in the next year.”
Kenyan Tergat won the Berlin Marathon three years ago in 2:04:55, a performance which still stands as the World record. Gebrselassie is getting closer but the gap between the pair is still 61 seconds, which equates to more than 300 metres.
Nonetheless, with his Berlin performance, Gebrselassie is now the fifth fastest runner in history with the seventh fastest time ever.
Ethiopian record also for Wami
In the women’s race the battle between Kenya and Ethiopia was decided early on as well. Before the 20k mark Gete Wami had already left behind Salina Kosgei. The Ethiopian reached the half way mark in 70:22, 22 seconds ahead of Kosgei. The Kenyan dropped further back later. It was only at the very end when Wami was exhausted that she ran slower.
“I’ve always wished to run in Berlin,” said Wami. “From about 30k I knew that I would win this race. The weather was good, the air was clear and the atmosphere strong. I already know that I will be back here and wish to set my personal best time at this race again.
Kosgei was happy as well. “I never thought I could catch Wami again so instead I ran my race and went at my own pace. I think I did very good today and am very happy with my race.”
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF (with assistance from Marisa Reich)
1. Haile Gebrselassie ETH 2:05:56
2. Gudisa Shentema ETH 2:10:43
3. Kurao Umeki JPN 2:13:43
4. Terefe Yae ETH 2:15:05
5. Ahmed Ezzobayry FRA 2:15:29
6. Driss El Himer FRA 2:16:44
7. Ombeche Mokamba KEN 2:17:34
8. Jackson Koech KEN 2:17:42
1. Gete Wami ETH 2:21:34
2. Salina Kosgei ETH 2:23:22
3. Monica Drybulska POL 2:30:12
4. Asha Gigi ETH 2:32:32
5. Marcia Narlock BRA 2:35:28
6. Melanie Kraus GER 2:35:37
7. Shitaye Gemechu ETH 2:35:56
8. Adanech Zekiros ETH 2:36:48
Winners’ 5k splits(chip timed):
5 k 14:44 17:01
10 k 29:55 33:47
15 k 44:51 50:22
20 k 59:30 1:06:41
Half 62:46 1:10:22
25 k 1:14:19 1:23:14
30 k 1:29:06 1:40:09
35 k 1:43:37 1:57:00
40 k 1:58:57 2:14:13
Finish 2:05:56 2:21:34
Standings at World Marathon Majors Series 2006-2007 after three events:
1. Haile Gebrselassie ETH 25 points
Felix Limo KEN 25
Robert K. Cheruiyot KEN 25
4. Gudisa Shentema ETH 15
Martin Lel KEN 15
Benjamin Maiyo KEN 15
1. Gete Wami ETH 25 points
Deena Kastor USA 25
Rita Jeptoo KEN 25
4. Salina Kosgei KEN 15
Lyudmila Petrova RUS 15
Jelena Prokopcuka LAT 15