Breaking the world record was the predominant topic of conversation at the traditional pre-event press conference on Friday (28) for the elite men who will be contesting the 41st edition of the BMW Berlin Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, this coming Sunday.
Dennis Kimetto is quietly spoken even by laid-back Kenyan standards but there is no mistaking the intent of the man who broke the course record with a personal best of 2:03:45 to win in Chicago last October.
He is one of the contenders who knows just how fast the Berlin course can be.
In 2012, he ran out of steam just a few strides from the finish line which was enough for his training partner Geoffrey Mutai to surge to victory. Nevertheless, he set the fastest ever time of 2:04:16 for someone making his debut at the distance.
“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,” commented Kimetto.
If Kimetto, or one of his compatriots, does break the world record it would be the second year in succession that the Kenyan flags have flown in celebration along the Avenue of June 17. Last year Wilson Kipsang sliced 15 seconds off the then world record with his time of 2:03:23.
The fastest man in the field, Dennis Kimetto’s time in Chicago last October was only 22 seconds slower than Kipsang’s mark.
Provided he has recovered from a leg injury which forced him to drop out of the Boston Marathon in April, he represents a formidable force. However, in terms of consistency, few can beat the marathon credentials of his compatriot Emmanuel Mutai.
It shows just one victory, when he set the course record in London in 2011 in what was then a personal best of 2:04:40.
However, if you were looking for a man to give you a place on the podium whatever the course or conditions, he is Mr Reliable.
“What I’ve learned in training and running marathons is perseverance. When we’re in competition, if you lose first place, you fight for second or third. I keep on fighting for what I want to achieve,” said Mutai.
Mutai knows all about Dennis Kimetto’s capabilities, having finished seven seconds behind his fellow Kenyan with a personal best of 2:03:52 in the 2013 Chicago race.
For all his experience, Mutai will be racing for the first time in a marathon in Berlin but has been doing his homework on Berlin for quite a while.
“I’ve read about the world records that Haile set here, studied the course and split times and watched races on TV. Family commitments meant I didn’t watch Wilson Kipsang’s world record live last year but I made sure I watched it on replay.”
Geoffrey Kamworor is another Kenyan runner who can make the podium, despite being just 21.
He won the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships gold medal in Copenhagen in March but first came to prominence when he captured the city’s half marathon title in 2011, fresh from winning the IAAF World Cross Country Championships junior men’s gold medal.
One year later, and aged 19, he made his marathon debut in Berlin and finished third in 2:06:12 and repeated that podium place last year. Sunday will be his sixth competitive appearance in the city.
“I feel at home here and it feels good to run here. My training has gone well and with this confidence, I am aiming for the win. I’m getting stronger all the time and these days have been able to do more long runs in training which boosts my confidence,” said Kamworor.
If one man can upstage the Kenyans, it is likely to be Tsegaye Kebede.
His consistency, at least, matches that of Emmanuel Mutai and makes impressive reading: 18 completed marathons and all but three of them showing top three finishes.
The diminutive runner from Gerar Ber, some 40 kilometres from Addis Ababa, also set his current personal best in Chicago, with 2:04:38 for victory in 2012. Kebede has shown a readiness to adapt even when his career is at its height.
He was the London champion in 2010 and then again three years later, in addition to his Chicago success.
He credits the coaching partnership of Getaneh Tessema and the Italian Renato Canova with more emphasis on speed work.
“I used to do more long runs but now we concentrate more on speed. I made this change over the past two years. I’ve heard about the Berlin course from Haile and have always wanted to run it. Now I have the chance,” commented the erudite Kebede.
This change in focus has brought rewards and not only is Kebede one of the favourites for the BMW Berlin Marathon this year but he won the most recent series of the World Marathon Majors which ended last winter.
In the current two-year competition, for 2013-2014, Kebede also leads the men’s rankings in pursuit of a lucrative $500,000 payday.
Organisers for the IAAF
Men’s elite field (with personal best times):
Dennis Kimetto KEN 2:03:45
Emmanuel Mutai KEN 2:03:52
Tsegaye Kebede ETH 2:04:38
Levy Matebo KEN 2:05:16
Eliud Kiptanui KEN 2:05:39
Franklin Chepkwony KEN 2:06:11
Geoffrey Kamworor KEN 2:06:12
Kazuhiro Maeda JPN 2:08:00
Ryo Yamamoto JPN 2:08:44
Maswai Kiptanui KEN 2:08:52
Abera Kuma ETH 2:09:53
Scott Overall GBR 2:10:55
Kazuki Tomaru JPN 2:11:43
Fernando Cabada USA 2:11:53
Falk Cierpinski GER 2:13:30
Andrew Lemoncello GBR 2:13:40
John Gilbert GBR 2:16:46