Geoffrey Mutai Wins 2012 BMW Berlin Marathon and World Marathon Major Title in Bizarre Finish

September 30, 2012

After running stride for stride for 26.2 miles and on world-record pace until the final two miles, Geoffrey Mutai edged training partner Dennis Kimetto to win the 2012 BMW Berlin Marathon in 2:04:15 to Kimetto's 2:04:16 in a truly bizarre finish. The win netted Mutai the 2011-2012 World Marathon Majors title and $500,000 and started the speculation of: 'Did Kimetto let his training partner Mutai win Berlin?'

What you ask? Let him win?

Yes, that's what we wrote.

Coming down the stretch it did not look like a foot race to win a major marathon, it did not look like a foot race to win anything. Mutai was in front and Kimetto was a couple of strides behind on his left. That's how it remained until the finish. No frantic kick or grimaces on either guy's face.  Throw in the fact, the winner of the World Marathon Major title gets $500,000, second place gets $0*, and the speculation that Kimetto let Mutai win is even louder.

Here are some of the live reactions  that were written on the message board as the race was finishing: "This was clearly one athlete letting the other one win. The least they could have done was pretend to fight it out. With drug scandals, etc Athletics takes another dive into the gutter. Would be interesting to see what odds the betting companies were offering", "this honestly was the most fake-looking thing i've seen in a while. neither even appeared to care for the last 7k they were alone togeter (sic)", "I can buy that they were both hurting bad, but even so you would at least expect their body language to change as they approached the finish line. Maybe it was there and I missed it, but they seemed to approach the finish line in the same manner as they approached any other of the course markers" and "the splits don't tell the whole story here. Kimetto did not even try to sprint, so clearly, he had more to gain by coming second than by winning."

If you don't want to listen to someone posting on an anonymous message board, how about one of the official broadcasters of the marathon on Universal Sports saying as the finish is happening, "If anything, it may be a preplanned thing you know." The integrity of our sport is at stake.

"If anything it may be a preplanned thing you know."
(US Visitors only we believe)
(Rewind if you want to watch the whole highlights)

It's unfortunate this race ended with such speculation, because it was an absolute masterpiece until the final two miles. The world record was in doubt until the pace just cratered during the last 2km. Even though they finished over 30 seconds off of the world record, most people watching it live were wondering if the record would be broken until the finishing straight. It's only in hindsight easy to see that Mutai and Kimetto cratered at the end.

As usual in Berlin, there were a slew of pacemakers. This year the pace started very modestly and off of world-record schedule. However, they were running a perfect negative split, with each 5km split faster than the one before it. Halfway was reached in 1:02:12 (Patrick Makau's world record is 2:03:38), with five runners in the lead pack, Geoffrey Mutai, Dennis Kimetto, Jonathan Maiyo, Geoffrey Kipsang and Nicholas Kamakya, in addition to the rabbits. Kamakya would soon drop off and four contenders were left.

Update: The Science of Sport guys report one of the reasons for the slow opening 5k was the pace clock on pace car froze at 2:50km early on.

After 25k, the field was down to two rabbits, Wilfred Kirwa and Peter Some, and the four main contenders. After 30k, Kirwa was the only rabbit left. Then one hour and 33 minutes into the race, Mutai made a push and soon dropped Maiyo and then Kipsang. (Unofficially according to this thread, the 32km was 2:43 and the 33rd 2:48)

It was now a two man race between Mutai and training partner Kimetto. The world record was in jeopardy thanks to the pace slowly getting faster each 5km. At 35km (1:42:39) with roughly 5 miles to go, they were on world-record pace.

Mutai, the man with the fastest marathon ever in the world (his aided 2:03:02 in Boston) was battling with Kimetto, who was making his marathon debut and only running in his fourth race ever outside of Kenya (all three previous races were wins, including a world record at 25km).

From 35km to 40km, the pace slowed from 14:28 14:18 for the previous 5km to 14:43 14:53. We'll have to wait and see the km by km splits, but in retrospect by 40km, Kipsang and Kimetto were likely running over 3:00 per km, and if that was the case, then the world record was gone barring a crazy final mile.

There would be no crazy final mile, as Mutai and Kimetto were spent, even though very little changed on their expressions. According to the Eurosport television broadcast, the 41st kilometer was even slower, 3:06. In hindsight clearly there was no chance for a world record now.  There was the chance for a furious finish between arguably the greatest marathoner in the world, Mutai, and the true breakout star of 2012, Kimetto.

That furious finish never came. Mutai just maintained his slight edge over Kimetto to the finish and was the 2012 BMW Berlin Marathon champion. With a skewed incentive system with $500,000 at stake, it is natural that people are going to speculate about the finish between the two training partners.

Friend of LRC Mutwiri Mutuota reported Kimetto said afterwards, "I was not expecting to finish close to him since I knew I could not beat him, but I'm delighted with today's performance and in future, I will compete for the world record." Mutai said, "I had the chance to break the world record but after 35km, I had stomach cramps and I decided to maintain the pace. I thank God for winning this race and it was possible to break the world record, but I tried even though I could not move."

*This pre-race World Marathon Majors press release states that Mutai would have won the WMM with a second place finish here, but we don't believe that is the case, as if Wesley Korir wins in Chicago he would  have tied with Geoffrey Mutai and beat Mutai 1-0 in head to head matchups and win the WMM title under our calculations.

LRC Quick Take: Bizarre Finish. Assuming Kimetto did not let Mutai win, he definitely didn't look like a guy who thought he could beat Mutai- maybe similar to Galen Rupp and Mo Farah. In the Olympic 10,000m in London,.Rupp ran like he expected his training partner Farah to beat him. We don't think Kimetto has even been in a sprint finish in any of his races. So this was unchartered territory for a lot of reasons.

QT2: The integrity of our sport is at stake here. This is a serious matter and the WMM should investigate and consider changing its gimmicky system with $500,000 for 1st and $0 for second. When the broadcaster says as the finish is happening, ""If anything it may be a preplanned thing you know," we've got serious problems.

QT3: The days of having to learn how to run the marathon are over. Kimetto was on WR pace for 40km. Moses Mosop ran 2:03:06 in his first marathon.

5k splits and results:



















1:42:39 1:42:29

(14:28) (14:18)



(14:43) (14:53)




Results from Reuters.

1. Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) 2:04:15
2. Dennis Kimetto (Kenya) 2:04:16
3. Geoffrey Kipsang (Kenya) 2:06:12
4. Nicholas Manza (Kenya) 2:08:28
5. Josphate Keiyo (Kenya) 2:08:41
6. Jonathan Kiplimo Maiyo (Kenya) 2:09:19
7. Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) 2:09:59
8. Felix Keny (Kenya) 2:10:22
9. Masakazu Fujiwara (Japan) 2:11:31
10. Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan) 2:11:46

On the women's side, Aberu Kebede won Berlin her for her second time (she also won in 2010) in a personal best of 2:20:29. Video highlights here.

Women's results
1. Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) 2:20:29
2. Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) 2:21:19
3. Olena Shurhno (Ukraine) 2:23:32
4. Filomena Chepchirchir (Kenya) 2:24:56
5. Fate Tola (Ethiopia) 2:25:14
6. Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia) 2:28:45
7. Caroline Chepkwony (Kenya) 2:30:34
8. Anna Hahner (Germany) 2:30:37
9. Sonia Samuels (Britain) 2:30:56
10. Degefa Biruktayit (Ethiopia) 2:33:27

More: Science of Sport Breaks Down Berlin and Whether The Outcome was Fixed

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