You can’t fool Mother Nature. If she doesn’t sanction it, nothing else matters. So despite the great field assembled by race director Mark Milde – including the Big 3 of former champions Kenenisa Bekele 2016, Eliud Kipchoge 2015, and Wilson Kipsang 2013 – despite the excellent pacing job that put the athletes right on record pace through 30km, when the start time temperature for today’s 44th BMW Berlin Marathon was in the mid-50s and the streets were puddled with rain – meaning high humidity – though it may not seem like an overly big thing, in fact, it was just enough of a thing to put the world record out of reach.
What’s the first lesson every coach drums into his/her athlete? Have realistic expectations. We have seen enough of these things to know that unless every piece of the puzzle falls into place – athletes, training, pace, competition, and conditions – all you can hope for is a great race. And we sure got that today. In fact, this marks the nth time a great duel has emerged in Berlin in recent years.
With the last six men’s marathon world records coming in Berlin, we tend to forget how good the racing has been as we focus so hard on the clock. But whether it was Paul Tergat vs. Sammy Korir in 2003, Patrick Makau v. Geoffrey Mutai 2010, Makau v. Gebrselassie 2011, G. Mutai v. Kimetto in 2012, Kipsang v. Kipchoge 2013, or Bekele v. Kipsang 2016, Berlin has been a Wild West shootout over and over again.
Well, now we can add Eliud Kipchoge v. Guye Adola 2017 to that list of great duels, with Kipchoge coming from behind in the final five kilometers to notch the win in a world-leading 2:03:32 to Adola’s debut record 2:03:46.
But from a record standpoint, Kipchoge admitted after today’s superb win – his 8th in 9 career starts – that he knew at 5k the record was not happening. Just for the record, defending champion Bekele fell off pace shortly after halfway before dropping out, and Kenyan star Wilson Kipsang stopped at 30km with stomach problems, leaving Kipchoge and Ethiopian newbie Adola to duel through the final 12km.
Back in 2011 I wrote a story for the blog called CALCULUS OF A MARATHON WORLD RECORD 2011.
At the time Haile Gebrselassie held the record at 2:03:59 from Berlin 2008. His mark would fall to Kenya’s Patrick Makau in September 2011 to 2:03:38. In that article I wrote, “For the top 10 fastest marathons in history, the average start temperature has been 42 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 C). The average finish line temperature has been 51 (10.5 C). So the old adage – a day when it’s a little chilly to watch is a perfect day to race – is backed up by the hard evidence.”
When Dennis Kimetto set the marathon record in 2014 Berlin, it was 46°F with clear skies, little wind, and low humidity, perfect. Notwithstanding Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:00:25 exhibition in Monza, Italy in May, Dennis Kimetto’s official world marathon record of 2:02:57 is no cupcake.
The pacers did an outstanding job today, never too much, never too little. 29:04 at 10km, 1:01:29 at the half, an ideal set up for a strong negative split. But not in the conditions at hand. They never had a chance.
Unless Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones wakes up one morning and has an epiphany that marathon running is his new cup of tea instead of pro football, and decides to build a dome over a marathon course where every possible weather metric is controlled, we should stop setting up false expectations, and let the world record be the outcome of a great race rather than the goal of the event.
Eliud Kipchoge – Undisputed
Kenenisa Bekele- Always something
Wilson Kipsang – Stomach issues (he deserves an off day more than anyone with his sterling record. This was only his second DNF in 18 starts)
Guye Adola – Welcome to the Big Time.