Eliud Kipchoge and Wilson Kipsang will meet for the third time in their rivalry at the BMW Berlin Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race that will celebrate its 45th edition in the German capital on Sunday (16).
Kipchoge’s best of 2:03:05 is only eight seconds shy of the current world record while Kipsang has done his share of record breaking, setting the then-world record of 2:03:13 when winning in Berlin in 2013.
Kipchoge’s aim on Sunday is to break his personal best and attack the 2:02:57 world record Dennis Kimetto set in Berlin in 2014 while Kipsang is equally primed for a record chase. To date, their Berlin rivalry stands level with one win apiece, Kipsang prevailing in 2013 and Kipchoge hitting back with his victory last year.
The men’s marathon in Berlin has become a yardstick for top level performances at the distance worldwide. Over the past 15 years, its flat course has been the stage for half a dozen world records. Since 2003 no other marathon has produced a men’s world record.
Speaking a pre-race press conference in Berlin today, Kipchoge expressed cautious optimism.
"After winning in London in April I concentrated on preparations for Berlin and can assure you that I shall run well on Sunday," said Kipchoge, who's won ten of the 11 marathons he's contested. "I want to improve my personal best.”
When pressed on his world record ambitions, he simply added, “Yes, it would of course be very good if I could run that.”
Perhaps his reluctance to commit publicly to a world record assault is because two previous record bids in Berlin didn't come to pass. In 2015 his shoe insoles came lose and, despite running in pain, he still won in 2:04:00. A year ago bad weather put paid to the world record attempt but he 2:03:32.
Kipsang is he only man to have beaten Kipchoge over the distance but it took a world record to do it. The 36-year-old has plenty of experience and has achieved consistently world class performances over many years, breaking 2:04 on four occasions, a total Kipchoge has not yet matched.
Kipsang plans to run more cautiously than Kipchoge on Sunday.
“I want to run similarly to my world record in 2013," said Kipsang, who dropped out last year after 30 kilometres. "I ran the second half faster than the first then. This Sunday I want to reach halfway in 61:30."
Among those likely to be in the chasing group with Kipsang is half marathon world record holder Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea. “I want to set a personal best on Sunday,” said Tadese, whose best stands at 2:10:41.
Dibaba targeting personal best
On the women's side, Tirunesh Dibaba heads the strongest women’s field ever assembled in Berlin. Among the Ethiopian’s leading rivals will be last year’s winner, Kenya’s Gladys Cherono and her compatriot Edna Kiplagat, a two-time world champion. Four women will sub-2:20 performances to their credit will be on the start line.
“I’ve heard a lot about the Berlin Marathon and did my research," Dibaba, a three-time Olympic and nine-time world champion on the track said. "I know very well that the course is very fast."
Dibaba will bring a 2:17:56 career best to the start. Only two women have run faster.
“I improved my training in preparation for Berlin and did more volume. I am very well prepared and want to beat my best time on Sunday."
Berlin will mark Dibaba's fourth marathon. None of her previous races had pacemakers specifically for her benefit but this will not be the case on Sunday. “Pacemakers are very important for a fast time," she said.
Mizuki Noguchi's course record of 2:19:12 has stood since 2005, a performance that is still the Asian record. If conditions are agreeable, that course record could fall.
“I expect that one woman will take the lead from the start and behind her a group will form which would be on course to break 2:20,” said race director Mark Milde. He was clearly referring to Dibaba.
Cherono won the title last year, running 2:20:23, but has a 2:19:25 personal best set in when winning the first of her two Berlin titles in 2015. “I want to break my personal best on Sunday,” Cherono said.
Meanwhile, her compatriot Kiplagat, who has been one of the marathon elite for many years, will be making her Berlin debut.
"It has always been my goal to run in Berlin," said Kiplagat, whose lifetime best is 2:19:50 and has raced to the world title in 2011 and 2013. "I know the course is fast and I shall try to run my best ever time."
The fourth runner with sub-2:20 credentials is Dibaba’s fellow Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia, who has clocked 2:19:31. Others expected in the chase are Ethiopia’s Ruti Aga, last year's runner up with a PB of 2:20:41 ad Japan’s Mizuki Matsuda, who ran a brilliant marathon debut in January, winning in Osaka with 2:22:44.
A record 44,389 runners from 133 countries have entered. Sunday's race will also kick-off the 12th edition of the Abbott World Marathon Majors series, which also includes the Tokyo, Boston, London, Chicago and New York marathons.
Organisers and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF