One year on from breaking the course record at the BMW Berlin Marathon, Kenya’s Gladys Cherono returns to the IAAF Gold Label road race in search of a fourth victory on Sunday (29).
Cherono clocked 2:18:11 in the German capital 12 months ago, winning her third Berlin Marathon title and breaking a course record that had stood for 13 years. A fourth triumph here would give her more wins than any other woman.
“I’ve trained well and my aim is to retain my title,” said Cherono, who stands at sixth on the world all-time list. “I hope also to set a personal best.”
Although her compatriot Vivian Cheruiyot has had to withdraw because of achilles tendon problems, multiple world and Olympic gold medallist Meseret Defar could prove to be a tough competitor.
The Ethiopian won Olympic titles at 5000m in 2004 and 2012 and earlier this year clocked a PB of 2:23:33 in what was just her second marathon to date. “I have had many injuries in recent years but now I’ve been training well,” said the 35-year-old. “I decided to run Berlin because the course is so fast.”
Another Ethiopian, Olympic bronze medallist and 2015 world champion Mare Dibaba, is keen to get back to the form that brought her to a PB of 2:19:52.
Germany’s Melat Kejeta will be making her marathon debut and is hoping to run 2:22, which would be comfortably inside the Olympic qualifying time of 2:29:30 and would make her the third-fastest German woman of all time. Compatriot Anna Hahner is also targeting the Olympic qualifying mark.
A fast and exciting men’s race is also in prospect in Berlin. Distance legend Kenenisa Bekele, who set a personal best of 2:03:03 to win the Berlin Marathon three years ago, is the fastest man in the field.
Since setting his PB, however, Bekele has withdrawn from more races than he has finished. In between his aborted marathon attempts in Dubai and Berlin in 2017, he finished second in London in 2:05:57. He placed sixth in London last year in 2:08:53 but withdrew from the Amsterdam Marathon in October.
Sunday’s Berlin Marathon will be Bekele’s first race since a 10-mile road race in Bern in May.
“Overall I have prepared well, although my training period of three months is perhaps rather short for a marathon,” said Bekele. “This was because of an earlier injury. But I am ready for Sunday and want to show what I can do.”
Eight of the past nine men’s titles at the Berlin Marathons have been won by Kenyans, but this year there is a strong chance of an Ethiopian victory. Bekele will be joined on the start line by compatriots Leul Gebrselassie, Sisay Lemma and Birhanu Legese.
“I have spent five months preparing for this race,” said Gebrselassie, who ran 2:04:02 on his marathon debut last year and followed it with a 2:04:31 victory in Valencia. “I’m delighted to be in a race against Kenenisa Bekele – I used to dream about this.”
Organisers have arranged for the pacemakers to take the field through half way in 1:01:30, which is a pace several athletes should be capable of going with – including Legese. “I am ready for a fast time,” said the Tokyo Marathon champion.
Philipp Pflieger, the leading German entrant, will be targeting the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11:30.
Organisers for the IAAF