Thrilling contests and fast performances are eagerly awaited at the Berlin marathon tomorrow as Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge returns to defend his title against former world record holder Wilson Kipsang while Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia face Kenyan duo of defending champion Gladys Cherono and two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat.
Kipchoge and Kipsang have met on two previous occasions in Berlin with the match score currently tied at 1-1. Kipchoge, as last year’s winner is expected to be attacking his personal best of 2:03:05 which would mean running at world record tempo, given that his best is only eight seconds slower than the current world record. This was set four years ago in Berlin by his fellow Kenyan, Dennis Kimetto with his time of 2:02:57. Kipsang set the previous world record to win the 2013 Berlin title with 2:03:23, beating Kipchoge into the bargain.
Dibaba, arguably the greatest female distance runner in history, will be making her debut in Berlin. The key factor in her choice of race venue is Berlin’s well proven ability to offer a platform for super-fast performances. If conditions are favourable, the Ethiopian might well attack the world record, set by Britain’s Paula Radcliffe in 2002 with 2:15:25 in London. Dibaba is Ethiopia’s national record holder with 2:17:56 which is a big margin to make up, yet she has the pedigree of three Olympic golds in long distance track events to make any challenge credible. Cherono, Kiplagat, Dibaba and Aselefech Mergia will be chasing under 2:20 times which remains the major yardstick of excellence for the women’s marathon.
“I’ve heard a lot about the Berlin marathon and did my research. I know very well that the course is very fast,” said Dibaba, whose illustrious career includes three Olympic titles for 5,000m and 10,000m, nine world titles in all. And she still holds the world record for 5,000m on the track. “Switching to the marathon wasn’t a problem for me,” said the 33-year-old, whose best of 2:17:56 is the third fastest marathon ever by a woman.
“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,” explained the Ethiopian, while some believe she is capable of getting close to the world record of 2:15:25, set by Britain’s Paula Radcliffe 15 years ago.
Cherono also remains ambitious. “I want to break my personal best on Sunday,” said Cherono while Kiplagat observed: “It has always been my goal to run in Berlin. I know the course is fast and shall try to run my best ever time.”
Mergia (2:19:31), compatriot Ruti Aga, last year’s runner up in 2:20:41 and Japan’s Mizuki Matsuda (2:22:44) could be a handful for the favourites.