Berlin Marathon 2012 Preview: Geoffrey Mutai Goes for History and The Crazy Story of Dennis Kimetto
September 29, 2012
The men's race at the BMW Berlin Marathon is primarily about one thing - Geoffrey Mutai's quest for history.
By history, most people are focused on whether Mutai can break Patrick Makau's world record of 2:03:38, set last year in Berlin. If Mutai is able to break the world record, he will also have the course record at three of the five World Marathon Majors (Berlin, Boston, and New York), a feat only the late Sammy Wanjiru has rivaled (Wanjiru had the London, Chicago, and Olympic records). Mutai will be recognized as one of the true marathon greats and everyone will wonder how he was left off the Kenyan Olympic team.
If Mutai doesn't set the world record but wins, he will join Wanjiru as the only man with three different "Major" wins since the advent of the WMM. Most of you will care, but the rest of the world will barely notice.
Berlin Home of the Last 4 Men's World Records
Let's make it clear. Mutai is after the world record in Berlin. Races directors love to hype races as world record attempts, but in Berlin they are legitimate. The men's world record in the marathon has been broken four times in the last decade, all four times the record was set in Berlin. The course is blazing fast and the weather almost perfect. We wouldn't blame someone who just started following the sport to think the world record was only set in Berlin.
The plan for Berlin is for the pacemakers to reach half-way in 1:01:40 which would be nearly perfect. Last year the rabbits hit half-way in 1:01:43 as Patrick Makau was battling Haile Gebrselassie for supremacy in Berlin. Our biggest concern is if the rabbits go too fast at half-way. Putting time in the bank is the easiest way to blow-up a world record attempt.
Berlin is not a one man race and to break the world record Mutai will need some help. The question is who can stay with him. When Mutai ran the fastest marathon ever run, his 2:03:02 to win in Boston on the non-record eligible course, Moses Mosop was with him all the way until the finish, finishing just four seconds back in 2:03:06. In New York, when Mutai smashed the course record he had company until 20 miles.
The Berlin field is no match for last year's incredible New York City field that Mutai dispatched with ease. However, in the era of modern marathoning, Mutai could have company through 20 miles, which means he should have a shot at the record.
Berlin knows how to set up a race for a world record. There will likely be a slew of rabbits running in a V formation. We expect some of the rabbits to make it close to 30k (18.6 miles). Wilfred Kirwa who was only 11 seconds off of the 25km world record is one of the rabbits. The question is who in the field can stay with Mutai?
The second fastest marathoner in the field is Jonathan Maiyo of Kenya. Maiyo has run 59:02 and 59:08 in the half-marathon and ran 2:04:56 at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon this year which only placed him fourth. 2:04:56 is a long way from 2:03:38, but Maiyo should have no problem hanging on that pace through 20 miles if he desires. Deressa Chimsa of Ethiopia has run 2:05:42 (only good for 8th place in Dubai) and 2:06:25 this year (winning in Prague). However, he's not longer on the race start list so we think he's out. Nicholas Kamakaya is the next fastest and has run 2:06:34. A guy like Kamakaya probably won't be up there past half-way.
Editor's note: Message board poster "that guy from Germany" points out 2:05:39 marathoner Eliud Kiptanui is in the field. He ran 2:05:39 in 2010 and has run 2:06:44 this year.
Two of the more interesting guys in the field are marathon debutantes, Dennis Kimetto and Geoffrey Kipsang, both of Kenya. Kipsang is a 59:26 half-marathoner which means he should be able to hang at least for a while.
The Crazy Story of Dennis Kimetto
The more intriguing of the debutantes is Kimetto, the training partner of Geoffrey Mutai. Kimetto is a neophyte to professional running who has only raced three times in his life outside of Kenya. Those three races have been incredible. First, in February he won one of the most prestigious half-marathons in the world, the RAK half-marathon, in windy conditions in 1:00:34 as an 18 year old. Then in April, he was in Berlin, winning the Berlin half-marathon in 59:13 as someone in his mid 20s. Then in May he was back in Berlin, breaking the world record for 25k at the Big Berlin 25k as a 28 year old. If you're confused, you should be as his age changed ten years over the course of 4 months. So did his name (originally he was Dennis Koech). Kimetto's agent deserves the blame for all of this, but the point is the guy is a raw, raw talent. Plus, he loves running in Berlin.
Three races outside of Kenya, all wins, including a world-record at 25k. 25k is a seldom raced distance so don't assume Kimetto is ready to challenge the world-record in the marathon (his 25k world record is 60:10 half-marathon pace for 15.5 miles). A likely scenario is Kimetto is in Berlin to help Mutai get the world record. He's the one guy in the field who should be able to hang with Mutai the longest. His marching orders may be to stay up front as long as possible. How long can he stay with Mutai? Who knows. If Kimetto somehow makes it to the finish and makes it four for four in races outside of Kenya, we'll be talking about this guy forever, as he'll be the greatest talent in the history of the sport.
Kimetto should be able to give Mutai some company which is essential for a world record.
The other thing essential for a world record is for mother nature to cooperate. What's the forecast for race time? Zero percent chance of rain, temperature in the upper 40s and winds 10 mph or under. Pretty good especially if the wind cooperates.
LRC Take: Watching Mutai and Kimetto should be a lot of fun.
IAAF Women's Race Preview: Defending Champ Aberu Kebede and Trainining Partner Tirfi Tsegaye Hoping to Go Sub 2:20
On the boards: Discuss 2012 Berlin Marathon