Tag: BMW Berlin Marathon

TWO MARATHONS PER YEAR?

Japan’s “Citizen Runner” Yuki Kawauchi is notably famous for his relentless marathon schedule. Since his humble start in February 2009 when he finished 20th at the Beppu-Oita Manichi Marathon in 2:19:26, the now 30 year-old school custodian has run 67 marathons, 22 of which have ended in victory. Twice, 2014 and 2015, he has started 12, and generally his time range has been from 2:09 to 2:18.

Kawauchi, however, is the outlier. The conventional wisdom has long held that at the very highest level professional marathoners optimized at two per year, one in the spring, one in the fall. The original cast of five Abbott World Marathon Majors was built on that assumption.

With a marathon training cycle of roughly 12 weeks, and a proper recovery requiring one month, it was felt that two per year was the way to best schedule a marathon career, with exceptions made for an Olympic or (possibly) a World Championships year, where athletes were willing to compromise their fall effort for a shot at Olympic or WC glory.

Wilson Kipsang breaks from Eliud Kipchoge in 2013 Berlin, the only loss in Kipchoge’s marathon career

The perfect illustration of this is the current world number one marathoner Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. Since the ’03 5000m world champion began with a win in Hamburg in April of 2013 (2:05:30), he has run two per year like clockwork, one in the spring, one in the fall, winning each and every race except his second career start in Berlin in September 2013 where he took second place (2:04:05) to Wilson Kipsang‘s then world record 2:03:23.

Even last year when Eliud won in London in April in a near-world record 2:03:05, then came back in Rio in August to claim Olympic gold, he didn’t force a fall start, saving himself instead for the mighty effort in Monza, Italy this past May in the Nike Breaking2 Project.

So, too, with rival Wilson Kipsang. His marathon career has stretched from Paris 2010 (3rd, 2:07:13) to Tokyo in late February 2017 (1st, 2:03:58). Only twice in that span has he added a third marathon, 2012 when he took bronze at the London Games, and 2015 when he DNF’d at the Beijing World Championships.

Ethiopia’s Keninisa  Bekele, too, has generally stuck to the two-per-year model since he began in Paris 2014 (1st, 2:05:04). However in 2015 he only made one start, DNF’g in Dubai in January as he worked through an injury.

But as the paydays continued to spread around the world and opportunities began to crop up where the weather was conducive to marathon running in what previously might have been off season, we have begun to see more and more athletes stretch their wings and challenge old assumptions. (more…)

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KIPCHOGE TO ATTEMPT OFFICIAL WORLD MARATHON RECORD IN BERLIN 2017

To nobody’s surprise Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge will make a world record attempt this September 24th at the BMW Berlin Marathon, site of the last six men’s marathon world bests dating back to Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie‘s 2:04:26 in 2007. That Kipchoge would run in Berlin this fall was always one of the probabilities coming out of Nike’s Breaking2  Project from this past May in Monza, Italy where the 2016 Olympic Marathon champion completed the marathon distance in a remarkable 2:00:25 in an unratified attempt to break the two hour barrier for 26.2 miles.

Kipchoge came so close to the sub-two hour barrier in Italy in May using a rotating stream of 30 even-tempo pacers, that a sub-62 first half in Berlin will seem modest by comparison. In essence Breaking2 will have been a speed session for Berlin.  (more…)

MONDAY NIGHT RAW

Two titans in Berlin
Two titans in Berlin

What were they thinking — or not thinking, as the case may be? In a race that close, the stakes so high, I mean, why didn’t Wilson Kipsang invite Keninise Bekele’s goat-getter (maybe Mo Farah) onto the Berlin Marathon press truck just to needle him a little in the final kilometers? In a marathon 10-seconds is a blink. It wouldn’t have taken very much to throw him off his game. Didn’t these guys follow news reports between training sessions?

The BMW Berlin Marathon might have kicked off the 2016 Abbott World Marathon Majors fall campaign in real style (Bekele in 2:03:03 to Kipsang’s 2:03:13), but there’s no doubt which is the major race of the season. (more…)

MAKE IT PERSONAL

wmmHeader
The Fall 2014 marathon season is upon us, and with the 41st BMW Berlin Marathon about to step out this weekend, we can see how the efforts and budgets of the three fall majors were spent, and what might lie ahead in the coming six weeks.

As per usual, the clock is once again in focus in Berlin, as the USA’s Shalane Flanagan guns for Deena Kastor’s U.S. marathon mark of 2:19:36, set in London 2006.  Shalane sacrificed quite a bit in terms of money by going to Europe rather than racing in the States in Chicago or New York City. But Berlin is the preferred record venue with its flat course, paced races, and more predictably seasonable weather.  Plus, at age 33 the Marblehead, Massachusetts native feels the clock ticking.  Not that she won’t have competition. Paris course record holder Feyse Tadese , and Tokyo record holder Tirfi Tsegaye of Ethiopia will also lace up in Berlin this Sunday, but Shalane has forthrightly admitted that time is the goal, not place, and she won’t sacrifice an even pace for a competitive surge.

But on the men’s side, Berlin has gone against type and recruited three ex-World Marathon Majors race champs rather than a single comet blazing toward another world record attempt behind a phalanx of pacers. In Dennis Kimetto, 2013 Chicago winner; Tsegay Kebede of Ethiopia, reigning WMM series champ; and former London course record holder Emmanuel Mutai, Berlin has three of the strongest racers in modern marathoning.   Kebede once again leads the 2013–2014 standings with 55 points.  Kimetto stands in third with 50, and E. Mutai still has an outside shot for the title, resting in fifth position with 30 points.

There are 25 points at stake for the Berlin win, and with $500,000 on the line for the WMM series winner, yet Mr. Kimetto’s “I know I am ready. My preparation has been good and I’m confident for Sunday. If the conditions are good, yes, we could break the world record,” indicates time seems always to be the primary focus in Berlin.  But who doesn’t enjoy a bloody good race more than a sterile time trial?  Even better when both occur as in London 2002 when Khalid Khannouchi broke his own record in a power tussle against Paul Tergat and the debuting Haile Gebrselassie.

In fact, that is the point of this post. Often, the events and the athletes tout themselves by comparing personal bests (PBs) instead of individual match ups. For men it is how many sub-2:04s, or sub-2:05 are in the field. For the women it is the number of sub-2:20s. But twenty years ago it was how many sub-2:10s and sub-2:30s were running. Times change, and when we reduce the competitors to their times, what we lose are their personalities – assuming they have one.

As a result, when you ask almost anyone but the hardest of hard core fans who they think will win a race, odds are they will say “a Kenyan”, or maybe “an Ethiopian”. While that response might be a market satisfier in terms of promoting Kenya and Ethiopia as places that develop great runners, it is a market dis-satisfier in terms of marketing the individual athletes or developing the sport to a wider audience.

Point is, in order to make it stick, it has to be personal. Enough of this “I am just trying to run my best race”. It has to become “I want to beat that guy!” Him against Him, Her versus Her, not them against the clock. There is no emotional appeal to a time-based presentation. Every once in a while, like with Flanagan in Berlin, it might make sense, but the general public doesn’t know a 2:03 from a 2:13 or 2:23. What they do understand is white hats and black hats, or stakes of $500,000 or more. (more…)

NEW PR VIDEO STARS FORMER MARATHON RECORD HOLDER PATRICK MAKAU

It is no surprise that the dominance of Kenyan runners over the last twenty years has cut both ways in the sport of distance running.  While records have fallen with increasing rapidity, the marketability of the sport — and its champions  — has also fallen well behind the standard set by the slower champions of the initial running boom.  Now, perhaps belatedly, the fastest runners on the planet have begun to  acknowledge that their role must extend beyond that of simple performer and include a dash of salesman, too, in the offering of the sport to the public. (more…)

WILL 1500m SPEED DETERMINE MARATHON LIMITS?

Wilson Kipsang, world record grin
Wilson Kipsang, world record grin

The ink isn’t even dry on Wilson Kipsang’s new marathon world record (2:03:23) from last Sunday in Berlin, and already speculation has begun over what might be next for the iconic distance event.

Golfing legend Gary Player, winner of nine major titles and countless others world-wide, believes we have yet to see the best golf there is to play, notwithstanding Tiger Woods and the now more athletic generation that Woods has inspired.

“We haven’t seen a Jordan or a Shaq on Tour yet,” Player told ESPN’s SportsNation recently.  “And when we do they will hit 420 yards, and courses will be obsolete.”

Like golf, running has dipped its toes into a new pool of talent where we begin to question the definition of endurance.  This past Sunday in Berlin Kipsang broke countryman Patrick Makau’s two-year old marathon world record by 15 seconds on the same course that has hosted the last five marathon world records. But with double Olympic track champion Mo Farah of England about to give the distance a full go in London next April, are we on the cusp of a brave new world? (more…)

BERLIN FOLLOW UP

Mutai over Kimetto in Berlin

The internet, Facebook and Twitter are thrumming this morning with questions and opinions about the finish of the 39th BMW Berlin Marathon last Sunday. With the world record leaking away in the final few kilometers, Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai found countryman, training partner, and debuting marathoner Dennis Kimetto still locked to his stride. Their breakaway 5 kilometer split of 14:18 from 30 to 35K was now coming home to roost. Mutai’s stomach was cramping, and he – and Kimetto – had nothing left in the tank as the clock ticked menacingly away from the glory he had hoped to attain. But still there was a race to be won, record notwithstanding.
But no race came to pass. Instead the final few hundred meters resembled the finish of a daily recovery run, simply an apprentice ushering his mentor to the line as any proper wing man would.
As the race ended, the controversy began. If anyone but one of his stable mates had been on his shoulder, wouldn’t Mutai have felt worried? Desperate? Vulnerable? Wouldn’t he have tried to muster whatever last vestiges of energy he had to squeeze out a final kick of some sort to hold on to victory? Wouldn’t the other man have done the same?
Perhaps in a perfect world, yes, but neither man did in Berlin, leading pundits and fans alike to question the veracity of the outcome, especially since Mutai had sealed the deal on the $500,000 bonus for winning the 2011-2012 World Marathon Majors series title with the Berlin win added to those in Boston and New York City from 2011.
This morning I received the following message from Mutai and Kimetto’s manager, Gerard Van de Veen of Volare Sports:
     Hi Toni,
     To be very clear: there was no ‘deal’ between Geoffrey and Dennis!!!  Yes, the pacemakers were very disturbed by getting wrong information.

     Kind regards,
     Gerard
After the race we found out that a faulty timing clock atop the lead pace vehicle had led the leaders to believe the pace they were running was under their halfway goal time of 61:40. Only when they hit the halfway mark 32-second slower than intended to did they realize the error. But ramping up the pace in the second half eventually took its toll in the final few kilometers, which is where Mutai and Kimetto faded off the record.
As to the ethics of two men not fighting for the win in a major marathon, we have many similar circumstances, from Berlin 2003 with Paul Tergat and training partner Sammy Korir, to Boston 2007 with Robert Cheruiyot and his training mate James Kwambai.  But here’s another from way back when I first got into the marathon broadcasting game. (more…)