BERLIN MARATHON – MEN’S PREVIEW

     One week from today the 39th BMW Berlin Marathon will kick off the post-Olympic fall major marathon season.  Part of the week’s menu in Berlin will be the announcement of the destination for the Mystery Marathon, the new adventure marathon event helmed by Elite Racing and Rock `n` Roll Marathon founder Tim Murphy.

While the official unveil of the Mystery Marathon’s destination isn’t scheduled until next Thursday, I have the inside track (disclaimer:  I’m part of the MM team!)  As such, I’ll have an exclusive sneak peak at the new Mystery Marathon website next Tuesday September 25th.  Look for that here on the blog.  The Mystery Marathon promises to be a unique and first-rate operation, without doubt!

Toni & Josh Cox on the call

Now to the Berlin Marathon itself.  American 50K record holder Josh Cox and I will man the booth for Universal Sports TV coverage of Berlin next Sunday September 30 from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Pacific. And since the last four men’s marathon world records have been set in the German capital, the 39th Berlin Marathon portends mighty possibilities.

Though Kenyan runners Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang copped the silver and bronze medals behind Uganda’s surprising Stephen Kiprotich in the London Olympic Marathon, the disappointment of not defending Sammy Wanjiru’s 2008 gold medal from Beijing was the crowning thorn on a lackluster overall Kenyan performance in London.  The whys and wherefores for that are for another column, but what we are left with in remainder of this 2012 fall marathon season is a chance for some form of redemption for this über-prideful running nation.

Mutai in Full Flight

The main player in Berlin will be Geoffrey Mutai, the man snubbed by Kenyan Olympic selectors after he so thoroughly dominated the 2011 marathoning year with unprecedented course records in both Boston and New York City.  Of course, his DNF this spring in the wilting heat of Boston is what cost him his place in London.  But as I said then, what can anyone really learn from a 30C day, anyway?

Well, it won’t be 30C in Berlin, but it won’t be ideal, either.  As of today, the long-range forecast calls for moderate conditions:  partly cloudy skies with low temps for the morning in the low-to-mid 50sF (12C) and a high of low 60sF (17C) with light winds.  The top ten times in world history have all been run with start temps in the 40sF which is single digits Centigrade.

While two-time defending Berlin champion Patrick Makau will be taking his world record talents 548 kilometers (341 miles) southwest to the Frankfurt Marathon on October 28th, Mutai will attempt to topple Makau’s year-old “official” world record 2:03:38.  Two years ago in Berlin Makau got the best of Mutai by two-seconds, 2:05:08 to 2:05:10. Then in a memorable 2011 performance, Patrick out-dueled Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie to break Haile’s 2008 world mark by 21-seconds.

Geoffrey Mutai knows the Berlin course, and the specter of his 2:03:02 from Boston 2011 – not recognized for record purposes due to elevation drop and point-to-point layout of the Boston route – is still a vivid memory, as is his monumental 2:05:05 course record from NYC last fall.  Beyond those positives there is the manner in which Makau set the record last year in Berlin that makes more than one pundit suggest that there remains another 30-seconds still in that mark left to be taken out.

Makau opens up on Geb, Berlin 2011

Recall that Makau and Gebrselassie got into a tussle in Berlin last year from 25-30km, with Makau dropping Haile at 27k on his way to a 14:20 5k split.  With the record so tight as it is, pacing is beyond important.  You get caught up in any significant surging, and fuel gets sucked up with such inefficiency that it all but erases record hopes – CALCULUS OF A WORLD RECORD.  Which is not to say that Geoffrey Mutai  is only concerned with the world record, is invincible, or won’t find competition in Berlin a week from Sunday.

I travelled to Nairobi in June for the Kenyan  national championships and then Olympic Trials, oddly scheduled one week apart.  Mutai ran the nationals 10,000m on June 14th, but was sick and dropped out.   He had won the Ottawa 10km road race in Canada on May 26th by 45-seconds (27:41), and rebounded quite well from his nationals DNF by defending his BAA 10K title on June 25th in Boston.  His 27:29, fastest road 10Km of the year, trumped second place by 24-seconds.  His final summer race was the Sotokoto (Half) Marathon in Kenya on July 8th.  There he took third-place in 62:13 behind a couple of his training mates and Berlin pacers, Victor Kipchirchir (61:45), and Peter Some (pronounced like Soom) at 61:46.

According to his manager, Gerard Van de Veen of Volare Sports, “(Mutai) didn’t want to run any other race anymore before Berlin.”  Van de Veen had contact with Mutai last week, and his man is feeling well.  However, he did mention that some training was disturbed because of a lot of rain in Kapn’gtuny.

Mutai is a self-coached athlete who lives in a very remote village in the Central Highlands where he oversees a training group of some sixty athletes. Included in that group will be his pacers for Berlin.  Again, here’s Gerard Van de Veen with that lineup.

“Yes, we will have pacers of our own choice.  First is Peter Some, this year’s winner of the Brighton Marathon and recently number two in the Sotokoto Half Marathon in Kenya. The second pacer is Wilfred Kirwa,  this year position two in the BIG 25 km in Berlin and, like Dennis Kipruto, below the former world record.  The third pacer is Victor Kipchirchir, this year 59:31 in City Pier City Half Marathon in The Hague, winner at the Göteborg Half Marathon in a new course record, and winner of the Sotokoto Half Marathon.  Dennis Kipruto Kimetto,  who set a world record at the 2012  BIG 25 km Berlin (May 6th), was also champion at the Berlin Half Marathon and RAK Half Marathon.  He has the plan to finish in Berlin (it would be his debut) but maybe he also will do a part as pacemaker.”

According to Van de Veen, the plan will be to start on a schedule for a 1:01:50 first half with a negative split second half.  A near-even second-half split of 1:01:45 would produce a 2:03:35 finish, three seconds faster than Makau’s 2011 WR.

As is so often the case in Berlin, the marquee athlete – Mutai – will be challenged by a shallow, but dangerous top-end field.

Kenyan Jonathan Maiyo trained for Berlin with best friend, Abel Kirui, the two-time World Champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist. The two shared a one-bedroom apartment in Iten, Kenya where they were coached by the esteemed Italian Renato Canova. I’m awaiting a return missive from Renato regarding Maiyo’s form.  What we know from his record is that he ran 2:04:56 for fourth place in January’s Dubai Marathon, making him the second fastest Kenyan marathoner of 2012 (Behind Wilson Kipsang’s 2:04:44 win in London).  Maiyo also carries a half-marathon PR of 59:02 run in The Hague this March, just two months after his 2:04 in Dubai.

May 13, 2012 Deressa Chimsa (ETH) ran to form to win the men’s title at the Prague Marathon in 2:06:25, the second fastest performance ever in Prague. He took command from shortly before 25k having brought his best down to 2:05:42 off his eighth place in Dubai in January.  However, you just wonder about a third major marathon in an eight month time frame.  He was also eighth at the 2011 Boston Marathon where Mutai notched his 2:03:02.

DANGEROUS DEBS

Geoffrey Kipsang
Marathon debutant

Besides first time marathoner Dennis Kimetto, the newly minted 25Km world record holder (1:11:18 – 4:36/mile), if there is danger lurking for Mutai, we may not need to look any farther than 19 year-old Geoffrey Kipsang.   The epitome of the modern day Kenyan warrior, young Kipsang is not only the reigning IAAF World Junior Cross Country Champion, he carries an impressive range, all the way from 3:48 at 1500-meters to a 59:26 for the half-marathon.  On top of which he also has big-time pacing experience, having rabbited Makau and Haile in Berlin 2011 before ushering Moses Mosop through 30km at world-record pace in Rotterdam 2012.  Watch out, 19 and Kenyan, as I’ve often said, Bullet-proof!

It’s all on target, and coming fast.  I’ll have a woman’s preview later in the week.

END

 

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