2017 Berlin Marathon Women’s Preview: Which New Star Will Emerge on the Big Stage?

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By LetsRun.com
September 21, 2017

Most of the attention this weekend will be on the men’s race at the 2017 BMW Berlin Marathon, and that makes sense: races like Kipchoge vs. Bekele vs. Kipsang don’t come around very often. If you haven’t read our detailed men’s preview yet, by all means take a look, plus also take a look at the past men’s WRs that have been set in Berlin, but there is a women’s title to be decided on Sunday as well. Obviously any race would be hard-pressed to compare against the star power of the Berlin men’s race, but there are several intriguing names in the women’s field, headlined by 2015 champ Gladys Cherono (2:19:25 pb). She’ll be joined by Ethiopian Amane Beriso (2:20:48 pb), last year’s third placer Ruti Aga (2:24:41 pb), and the red-hot Valary Aiyabei (2:21:57 pb), who has won her last four marathons. Aiyabei, 26, is one of several women in the field who have found success at lower-tier marathons that will be looking for a breakout win at a World Marathon Major. We could very well witness the birth of a star on Sunday morning.

Race details below, followed by our breakdown of the women’s elite field.

What: 2017 BMW Berlin Marathon

When: Sunday, September 24, 2017. Elite start at 3:15 a.m. ET.

Where: Berlin, Germany

How to watch (U.S. viewers): Live on NBC Sports Network or streaming via NBC Sports Gold. Coverage begins at 3:00 a.m. ET. The Olympic Channel will re-air the broadcast at 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.

How to watch (Canadian viewers): CBC Sports will stream the race live online.

How to watch (UK viewers): On TV, FreeSports will be airing the race. Flotrack will stream the race live online (requires subscription).

Berlin Marathon official site * 2016 LRC coverage

Elite Women

NameNationPBComment
Gladys CheronoKenya2:19:252015 champ was 5th in Boston in April
Amane BerisoEthiopia2:20:482nd at ’16 Dubai, 2nd in Prague in May
Valary AiyabeiKenya2:21:57Has won her last 4 marathons; Berlin is WMM debut
Gulume TollesaEthiopia2:23:122015 Frankfurt champ won Hong Kong in Feb.
Meseret MengistuEthiopia2:23:26Has won last 2 marathons, including Xiamen in Jan.
Ruti AgaEthiopia2:24:4113th Dubai, 10th Boston so far this year
Helen TolaEthiopia2:25:04Won Barcelona in March
Anna HahnerGermany2:26:44Set PR here in ’14; 81st at 2016 Olympics
Maja NeuenschwanderSwitzerland2:26:49Set PR here in ’15; 29th at 2016 Olympics
Sonia SamuelsGreat Britain2:28:0414th at London last year, then 30th at Olympics
Mona StockheckeGermany2:31:308th in Hamburg in April
Lily PartridgeGreat Britain2:32:104th in Seville in February

Since Tokyo was added to the Abbott World Marathon Majors in 2013, there have been 27 WMM races, and in 26 of the 27, the winner on the women’s side has entered with either a sub-2:24 pb or a World Championship medal. The lone exception came this year in Tokyo when Sarah Chepchirchir — training partner of doper Jemima Sumgong — “amazingly” went from 2:24 to 2:19 at age 33.

With that in mind, the stats indicate their are five women with a shot at winning Sunday’s race (if you haven’t broken 2:24 or won a Worlds/Olympic medal, you aren’t a potential winner). Let’s run through them below.

Gladys Cherono — Kenya, 34 years old, 2:19:25 pb (2015 Berlin), 66:07 half
Recent marathons: 1st 2015 Berlin (2:19:25), 5th 2017 Boston (2:27:20)

When Cherono won this race two years ago, she looked set to become the next global marathon star. Already a stud on the track (2013 Worlds 10k silver) and roads (2014 World Half Marathon champ), Cherono ran a strong 2:20:03 in her debut in Dubai (2nd place) in January 2015 before clocking 2:19:25 to win Berlin and move to #7 on the world all-time list. She looked to be in even better shape in 2016 when she ran a 66:07 HM pb in Ras Al Khaimah, but a stress fracture caused her to miss both the spring and fall marathon season. Cherono made her return to 26.2 miles in April by taking 5th in Boston, and she believes that she can return to her old form in Berlin this weekend.

She’ll have the opportunity as race director Mark Milde has said that the women’s race will be rabbitted at sub-2:20 pace.

“I’ve come to Berlin to attack my personal best,” Cherono told race organizers.

With her sparkling PRs and big-race experience (she’s the only major champ in this field), Cherono is definitely the favorite. If she is back to her 2015 form — or even close to it — she should win handily. Consider this: in five of the past six editions, it’s taken at least 2:20:45 to win in Berlin, and Cherono is the only woman in the field who has ever run that fast. Cherono’s 2:19:25 in 2015 was also the second-fastest winning time in Berlin history, behind only Mizuki Noguchi‘s 2:19:12 course record from 2005. Berlin has produced plenty of PRs through the years, so it’s certainly possible someone breaks through with a 2:20 on Sunday, but Cherono is the only one who’s proven in the past that she has what it takes to get to that level.

Amane Beriso — Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:20:48 pb (2016 Dubai), 68:43 half
Recent marathons: 2nd 2016 Dubai (2:20:48), 13th 2016 Boston (2:39:38), DNF 2017 Tokyo, 2nd 2017 Prague (2:22:15)

Beriso has run four marathons in her career. Two have gone well (2016 Dubai, 2017 Prague). The other two have not (2016 Boston, 2017 Tokyo). Beriso hasn’t raced since Prague in May (in fact, she hasn’t raced anything other than a marathon since September 2015), so we don’t know how fit she is at the moment, but if she’s in her Dubai/Prague shape, she’ll be in contention for the win in Berlin.

Valary Aiyabei — Kenya, 26 years old, 2:21:57 pb (2017 Prague), 67:50 half
Recent marathons: 1st 2016 Barcelona (2:25:26), 1st 2016 Valencia (2:24:48), 1st 2017 Prague (2:21:57)

Generally when we want to know if a marathoner is in good form, we’ll ask two questions: 1) Are they running PRs? and; 2) Are they winning races? Aiyabei has been doing both. She’s won her last four marathons, and in the last three she has set a personal best, going from 2:31 to 2:25 to 2:24 and, most recently, slicing almost three minutes off her PR to win Prague in April over the aforementioned Amane Beriso.

Winning Prague — where she broke the course record as well — is impressive enough, but it’s even more impressive when you learn how Aiyabei did it. She ran her first half marathon in a suicidal 68:24, only 34 seconds off her half marathon PR, before coming home in 73:33. Aiyabei will be making her major marathon debut in Berlin, and though the rain and wind in the forecast mean might mean that conditions won’t be ideal for running fast, she may be able to run another PR by simply running slightly more even splits.

She won’t have any excuses on that front as her husband — who is also her coach — will be serving as her pacer during the race.

“My aim is to equal the time I ran in Prague, but I hope for a personal best,” Aiyabei told race organizers.

We think Aiyabei is selling herself a little short. If she’s in the same shape she was for Prague, she could be in store for a nice PR if she runs more sensible splits.

Gulume Tollesa — Ethiopia, 25 years old, 2:23:12 pb (2015 Frankfurt), 68:40 half
Recent marathons: 
2nd 2016 Paris (2:26:14), 2nd 2016 Gold Coast (2:27:49), 1st 2017 Hong Kong (2:33:39), 5th 2017 Chongqing (2:32:37)

Tollesa does meet the WMM champion standard of a sub-2:24 pb, but she has achieved that time only once — 2:23 in Frankfurt two years ago. Other than that, she has never broken 2:26, and she didn’t run faster than 2:32 in either of the two marathons she ran earlier this year (though, to be fair, she did win the first of those two in Hong Kong in February). Berlin will be Tollesa’s first major marathon appearance, so perhaps the higher competition level will cause her to raise her game. But at this point in her career (Berlin will be her 15th marathon), Tollesa may have already hit her ceiling.

Meseret Mengistu — Ethiopia, 27 years old, 2:23:26 pb (2015 Paris), 69:31 half
Recent marathons: 
1st 2016 Beijing (2:25:56), 1st 2017 Xiamen (2:25:58)

Mengistu hasn’t raced much the last two years (just twice since October 2015), but she has won five of her last six marathons dating back to the start of 2014, including her most impressive victory in Paris in 2015, the race in which she set her PR. As we said with Aiyabei, it’s always a good sign if you’re winning races, and after her success at lower-rung marathons, now is a good time for Mengistu to make her major debut. Winning in Berlin will take her best performance yet, but based on her wins in Beijing and Xiamen the last two years, a big PR would not surprise us.

LRC Prediction: This one seems pretty easy- Cherono for the win. The question is does she break 2:20? We’ll say yes – if the weather is good.

Talk about the amazing 2017 Berlin Marathon on our messageboards:

MB: Berlin is next weekend. We can officially start the “Expect Great Things” thread!
MB: If Kipsang breaks the WR in Berlin, he is the best marathoner of all time

More LRC Berlin Coverage (See our special 2017 Berlin Marathon section here)
*World Record History: A Look Back At The Men’s Marathon World Records Set in Berlin
*Let’s Get Excited: Eliud Kipchoge vs Kenenisa Bekele vs Wilson Kipsang vs World Record Sunday in Berlin
*The Craziest Guy in Berlin? Japan’s Yuta Shitara Will Race 8 Days After Running 60:17 Half And Likely Go Out With Leaders
*Men’s Preview: Kipchoge vs. Bekele vs. Kipsang — Who Breaks The WR, And By How Much?


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