Making history seems to be on everyone’s agenda for Sunday’s 2014 Berlin Marathon.
The last five world marathon records have been set on the streets of the German capital, and last year Wilson Kipsang ran 2:03:23 to set the record and become the only man to run under 2:04 more than once.
This year's men's field features big names, including one who plans to break Kipsang's record.
The favorite: Dennis Kimetto (Kenya), 2:03:45
Kimetto is looking to make it six world records for the Berlin course. The 30-year-old debuted at Berlin in 2012, appearing to ease up before the finish line to allow training partner Geoffrey Mutai to capture the victory.
Mutai will be in New York on Nov. 2, which means Kimetto can run free and set the course ablaze in a similar fashion to his near-record 2:03:45 in Chicago last year.
“If the pace makers will do their job well and the weather will be fine, then I don't see why the world record will not be broken,” Kimetto told RunBlogRun.
Kimetto has sounded the alarm on Kipsang’s record. Last year in Chicago, he was not alerted by pacers or race organizers how close he was to the world record. The only blemish on Kimetto’s recent record is his drop-out at the Boston Marathon in April due to a hamstring injury.
The challengers: Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya), 2:03:52; Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya), 2:06:12
Mutai (Kenya) has a target on Kimetto’s back since losing to him by seven seconds in Chicago last year. Mutai was seventh in April’s London Marathon, just three years removed from his 2:04:40 victory there in 2011. Mutai is 29 years old, but has been running the marathon since 2007 compared to three years of experience for Kimetto.
At 21 years old, Kamworor has a personal best of 59:08 in the half-marathon. That’s better than Kimetto and Mutai’s best at the age of 30. Mamworor is showing shades of the late Sammy Wanjiru, who cracked 59 minutes in the half-marathon at 20.
Kamworor was sixth in 2:07:37 at February’s Tokyo Marathon. Most recently, he won the Bogota Half-Marathon at altitude in 63:18.
The dark horse: Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia), 2:04:38
Kebede has been Emmanuel Mutai’s kryptonite since 2012. Since being beaten in London in 2011, Kebede has defeated Mutai in their last three meetings there. Without Kebede in Chicago, Mutai ran his fastest time since 2011.
This will be their first meeting since Kebede took the 5-4 lead in their head-to-head matchups with a third place finish in London. The 5-foot-2 Ethiopian has yet to run under 2:04, but has managed to run under 2:07 with his 10 fastest marathons and always seems to get on the podium.
Women’s race preview
On the women’s side, Shalane Flanagan is in a race against the clock. Time comes first and winning would be a byproduct.
The fastest American woman at this year's Boston Marathon, Flanagan will attempt to break Deena Kastor’s American Record of 2:19:36 set in London in 2006. Flanagan has a personal best of 2:22:02 from April’s Boston Marathon, meaning she needs to shave 2:27 off that time to surpass Kastor and Berlin’s flat course will help. She will be paced by American Ryan Vail and Canadian Rob Watson through the first 20 miles of the race.
Much like training for the win in Boston, Flanagan has spent the last few days out in Berlin scouting the course and studying how Kastor managed to set the American record. Coach Jerry Schumacher consulted with Andrew Kastor and brought Flanagan down from altitude training 19 days from the race.
Flanagan will be in the spotlight, but she is not alone in her quest to join the sub-2:20 club, which currently has only 18 members.
Ethiopians Feyse Tadese and Tirfi Tsegaye will be going for the win. Tadese holds a personal best of 2:21:06 and her latest result was fourth place at the 2014 London Marathon. At the same time, losing is uncommmon for Tsegaye. She won the Paris Marathon in 2012, the Dubai marathon in 2013 and the Tokyo Marathon in 2014. Neither runner has broken 2:21 in their career, so personal bests are on their mind.
Ethiopian Tadelech Bekele opened her year with a 70:05 half-marathon victory in Berlin. She returns to Germany to make her marathon debut.
Flanagan was a front runner in Boston and served as an unofficial pacemaker until the Africans made their move late in the race. Expect the Ethiopians to follow a similar race plan once Vail and Watson drop out.