Monday, September 29, 2008

Haile breaks 2:04 barrier, Mikitenko under 2:20 in Berlin

Haile breaks 2:04 barrier, Mikitenko under 2:20 in Berlin

The clock says it all - history's first sub-2:04 run  (Victah Sailer)

The clock says it all - history's first sub-2:04 run

(Victah Sailer)

28 September 2008 - Berlin, Germany - Haile Gebrselassie and Irina Mikitenko delivered fascinating and thrilling performances at the 35th real,- Berlin Marathon - an IAAF Gold Label Road Race - in front of an enthusiastic crowd of at least one million people in the German capital this morning.

The Ethiopian broke his own World record * by 27 seconds and with 2:03:59 achieved his goal of becoming the first runner to break 2:04 for the classic distance of 42.195Km.

Spurred on by that enormous support Mikitenko became the fourth fastest runner ever over the distance. She stormed into the finish in 2:19:19 and became the first German to break the prestigious 2:20 barrier.

Mikitenko’s time, which is a World leader as well, is the seventh fastest ever. Only world record holder Paula Radcliffe (Great Britain), Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba and Mizuki Noguchi have ever run faster than Mikitenko. Overall, Mikitenko became just the ninth woman to dip under 2:20. The three year-old course record of the Japanese Olympic Champion Noguchi barely survived by just seven seconds.

It was James Kwambai, who gave Haile Gebrselassie quite a race. The Kenyan finished second with 2:05:36, improving his personal best by almost five minutes (2:10:20)! Charles Kamathi (Kena) took third in 2:07:48. Behind Irina Mikitenko, who improved her personal best by almost five minutes as well (2:24:14 in London 08), Askale Magarsa (Ethiopia) improved to 2:21:31 for second place. Kenya’s Helena Kirop was third with a personal best of 2:25:01.

Men’s race – fast from the outset

The pace in the men’s race was fast from the start, moving to World record tempo and staying there. What was surprising was that apart from Gebrselassie and his four pacemakers another two Kenyans also went with the super-fast pace: James Kwambai and Charles Kamathi. The leading group went through halfway in 62:04. One by one the pacemakers dropped out, leaving only Abel Kirui (Kenya) as pacemaker in the race who managed to hold on until about 32 km.

“The pacemakers did a great job,“ said Gebrselassie who at that point still had company. “It was fantastic that Abel was able to stay with me as long as he did.”

After Kamathi, who eventually came in third in 2:07:48, dropped back after 25 km, the race turned into a duel between Kwambai and Gebrselassie. “I didn’t expect him to be so strong,” said the world record holder of his opponent. About five kilometres from the finish Gebrselassie injected some extra pace to make the decisive break from Kwambai. For Gebrselassie it was global best number 27. He has clocked 19 official World records plus another seven unofficial world bests.

Falk Cierpinski, the son of double Olympic Champion Waldemar Cierpinski, produced a strong performance in the ideal conditions to finish ninth in this top-class field, improving his personal best from 2:15:48 to 2:13:30. The 30-year-old ran an even pace throughout, going through halfway in 1:06:21. “I’m gradually moving to where I want to be in the Marathon. I’ve set a personal best and finished in the top ten in Berlin. Compared to two years ago when I made my Marathon debut in Sydney, I’ve come a long way,” said Cierpinski.

With her 2:19:19, Mikitenko moves up to No. 4 all-time - Women’s race

“I still can’t quite believe it,” said an overjoyed Mikitenko after her win. The clock showed 2:19:19 as the 1.58m tall long distance runner in her third Marathon became the first German since Uta Pippig 13 years ago to win this classic Marathon.

Mikitenko didn’t follow the suicide pace of the leading group when the race began. Askale Tafa Magarsa, Shuru Deriba (both from Ethiopia) and the Kenyan pair of Helena Kirop and Rose Cheruiyot went through 10km in 32:49. That put them on course for a finishing time of 2:18:30 – only Paula Radcliffe has run faster than that. But Mikitenko was still running very fast going through 10km in 33:11 in fourth place – that set her en route to a sub-2:20 time.

Mikitenko’s husband and coach Alexander, who was following the race on a bicycle, was constantly trying to get his wife to slow down. But he only partially succeeded. When the lead group, by now reduced to two runners – Magarsa and Kirop – reached halfway in 69:37, Mikitenko was 28 seconds down in 70:05, still with a chance of catching them. And while the 36-year-old, who won 80,000 Euros for her win, maintained her pace, she first made up the ground on Kirop and then Magarsa as these two predictably slowed down.

After 25km Mikitenko was getting closer to the Ethiopian Magarsa who by now was the outright leader, catching her soon after. For a few kilometres she ran just a metre behind her, then made a strong break from the opponent who had been expected to offer the biggest threat. In the closing stages Mikitenko could raise the pace even more and finished in 2:19:19. That was an improvement of almost five minutes, just like Kwambai. Askale Magarsa ran a top-class time of 2:21:31 in second place, also a considerable improvement. Third was Kirop in 2:25:01.

Mikitenko joins lead in World Marathon Majors

The Berlin Marathon belongs to the World Marathon Majors (WMM) series. In the second series (2007-2008) Mikitenko has now joined the leader, Ethiopian Gete Wami. Both have 65 points. In the men’s series there were no significant changes regarding the outcome later this year in New York. Here Kenyan Martin Lel clearly leads with 76 points.

Regarding the combination of the two winning times the race was the second best Marathon ever seen. Combined, Gebrselassie and Mikitenko ran 4:23:18. Only the Chicago Marathon in 2002 was slightly better, with Khalid Khannouchi (2:05:56) and Paula Radcliffe (2:17:18) combining a 4:23:14.

At the 35th edition of Germany’s biggest and most spectacular road race, 40,827 runners from 107 nations competed. Weather conditions were ideal with temperatures between 12 and 16° Celsius, with sunshine. There was partly some slight wind, but the wind was not as strong as forecasted. Because of the great conditions and atmosphere the first two men and the first three women plus a number of other runners broke their personal bests in Berlin. Some of them did so by huge margins.

Jörg Wenig (assisted by Andy Edwards) for the IAAF

* pending the usual ratification procedures

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