What you need to know:
- For starters Berlin has produced an incredible 12 world records -- nine for men and three for women, seven owned by Kenyans
- However, the first Kenyan to break a marathon world record in Berlin was trailblazing Tegla Loroupe, storming to victory in the women’s race in 1999 in a time of 2:20:43
- The Berlin marathon, time without end, has always offered a Kenyan story, and it will be no different come Sunday
Now that Nation Media Group via NTV will broadcast live the 2023 Berlin Marathon this Sunday I have taken a lot more interest than I usually do in this 49-year-old road running race.
Truth be told, the really big marathons of the world are in America, starting with the New York Marathon and then Boston and Chicago. London in Europe is also up there with the biggies.
Berlin could be considered a mid-table race even though it is one of the world’s six Majors. But I tell you, this marathon, established in 1974 by a simple baker called Horst Milde who loved running back, has many stories to tell.
For starters Berlin has produced an incredible 12 world records -- nine for men and three for women, seven owned by Kenyans.
These records were far and in between until fairly recently. The first world record in the German city was set way back in 1977 in the women’s race by West German Christa Vahlensieck when she won in a time of 2:34:48.
Berlin had to wait until 1998 for another world record, this time in the men’s race via Brazilian Ronaldo da Costa. His time of 2:06:05 lasted exactly 13 months and four days before it was broken by American Khalid Khannouchi when he ran 2:05:42 in the Chicago Marathon. But, interestingly, Da Costa was the first and last Brazilian, and South American, to break a marathon world record.
The great Paul Tergat set his marathon world record in Berlin in 2003 in a then blistering time of 2:04:55 before his career-long nemesis Haile Gebrselassie took it away with a time of 2:04:26 in 2007. The Ethiopian returned to Germany the following year and lowered his own record to 2:03:59.
Not for long. Offended Kenyans then took over the marathon record breaking business in Berlin with Patrick Makau in 2011 (2:03:38), Wilson Kipsang in 2013 (2:03:23), Dennis Kimetto in 2014 (2:02:57), before easily the greatest runner over the distance the infallible Eliud Kipchoge claimed his first of two world records in Berlin 2018.
However, the first Kenyan to break a marathon world record in Berlin was trailblazing Tegla Loroupe, storming to victory in the women’s race in 1999 in a time of 2:20:43.
Five other Kenyans have won the Berlin Marathon women’s race, all inside Loroupe’s previous record, but none a world record. Gladys Cherono was the fastest of this lot with her winning time of 2:18:11 in 2018, incidentally, the last time a Kenyan woman has won in Berlin.
In 2000, something wonderfully odd happened at the Berlin Marathon. Simon Biwott, running as a pacesetter, pushed on deep into the race, pulling away from Spaniard Antonio Pena in the final kilometer to win in 2:07:42.
Back to Kipchoge. On September 19, he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Throughout the years, Berlin has become a very special place to me."
Indeed, it has. The marathon G.O.A.T first appeared in Berlin in 2013 finishing second to a world record-breaking Kipsang. Kipchoge returned in 2015 for his first victory before again triumphing in 2017, 2018 and 2022. The last two wins were with searing world record times -- 2:01:39 and the current, standing one of 2:01:09.
Will that record fall on Sunday?
Talk in the Kipchoge camp has it that he will be going for a fast time. Mmm.
The phlegmatic Kipchoge gave his clearest hint yet with this social media post on September 10:
“I have been putting in the work together with the team, doing all my trainings and trusting the process. I am ready to go back to my special place, back to Berlin to take on the challenge again.”
But at 38, and with an unexpected, and hugely disappointing to his legion of fans, sixth place finish in Boston in April, does Kipchoge still possess his imperious road running powers?
“When you focus on the good things in life, the good things get better,” he said in August 30. And in an NN Running Team documentary on YouTube he said: “It is not about perfection, it is about consistency."
He has been the most consistent marathon runner this past decade and all eyes will be on this Kenyan in Berlin.
The women’s race features last year’s champion Tigst Assefa who holds the Ethiopian national record of 2:15:37 set in Berlin. The only Kenyan entrant Sheila Chepkirui will be hungry to return the title home. She finished fourth in the London Marathon in April in 2:18:51 and holds a personal best of 2:17:29 set in the Valencia Marathon last year that earned her a third-place finish.
The Berlin marathon, time without end, has always offered a Kenyan story, and it will be no different come Sunday.
Be sure to tune in to NTV from 9.30am. You don’t want to miss this race!