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LRC Preview Of Men's 2008 real,- BERLIN MARATHON 
Can Haile Gebrselassie Go Sub-2:04?

The Great One Gave Up A Shot At Olympic Marathon Gold Because He Wants To Be The First To Run 2:03 - Can He Do It?
World Marathon Major, September 28, 2008

by: LetsRun.com
September 24, 2008
The 2008 real,- BERLIN MARATHON is the first world class marathon to follow the Olympics this year. In 2007, Berlin was host to a world record performance by the Great One, Haile Gebrselassie, who ran a sensational 2:04:26. Geb famously declined to run the marathon in Beijing, citing the humidity and smog, and the potential dangers of running so hard in such conditions. Many running experts assumed he wanted instead to focus his full efforts on another assault on his own record, on one of his favorite routes in Berlin. Now at age 35, Geb surely doesn't have too many more opportunities to run world record marathon efforts. And now the time is near, and one can't help but wonder if he can do it again.

Of course, in Geb's last marathon, the 2008 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, he blazed the first half in 1:01:27 (can you imagine?) before fighting home for a 2:04:53 clocking. That was in January 2008. The timing seems to be right for Geb to take another legitimate stab at running 2:04, and perhaps even a sub-2:04 for the first time in human history. It is interesting to think about it this way: if Geb runs 1 second per mile faster than he did last year, he will run 2:03:59 or 2:04:00. We're talking about a really fine line, so it will be interesting to see exactly what tactics Geb employs early in the race. Obviously, pacemaking will be of paramount importance, as every second, every ounce of effort will need to be meted out appropriately for the immensely talented, but undeniably aging former King of distance running.

We say "former" King because right now, Kenya's Sammy Wanjiru and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele could be considered the current, and certainly future holders of that throne. Wanjiru's performance in Beijing, where he smashed the Olympic marathon record, was downright scary. He was fast, he was tenacious, he was tough, and to run 2:06 in those warm, humid conditions, with the surging, insane pace right from the beginning ... one couldn't help but be in awe. Wanjiru went out there and crushed both the best in the world and the less-than-ideal conditions. It's unlikely Haile Gebrselassie or anyone could have touched Wanjiru on that day, but that's largely irrelevant.

Last Year Gebrselassie Made History in Berlin

Winning tactical, championship races and setting world records are two entirely different ball games and Geb has been running time trial marathons for a while now and he's proven to be amazingly good at it. He very well could get the world record on Saturday. We'll see how it unfolds, and certainly then we can argue who is the greatest. If he is the first to go under 2:04, it certainly will add to his already amazing legacy. The spotlight will be all Haile Gebrselassie's. His younger rivals, Bekele and Wanjiru, can try to out do his accomplishments later - much like Tiger Woods is going after Jack Nicklaus's feats in golf.

Is the race only about Haile? Honestly, yes it is in many ways. Last month in Beijing, Gebrselassie, one of the greatest runners in history, bypassed arguably the most prestigious race on the planet, the Olympic marathon, to go after the world record in this race. Thus the men's race is mostly about Geb and his world record attempt. A lot of the race's money has been spent in getting Geb and his pacemakers here. Just to pace Geb properly, you have to be a major world class runner.

But if you're into the World Marathon Major standings, and some other potential breakthroughs, Berlin has assembled a high quality international field behind the sure-fire front runner. The contenders for spots 2-10 are primarily Kenyan, Ethiopian and Japanese. Altogether, 8 other men in the field boast sub-2:10 clockings. Starting with the Ethiopians, with a personal best of 2:07:34 in Paris this year is Gudisa Shentema (28 years old). He placed second in Berlin in 2006, and led the Ethiopian contingent at the 2005 World Championships Marathon (13th). The third Ethiopian is Mesfin Adimasu, still young at 23 years of age. His best came last year, when he was 5th in Berlin, setting a personal record at 2:09:49. This year he ran 2:10 in Hamburg.

The Kenyan contingent is five deep, and led by a total stud in 30-year-old Charles Kamathi. Kamathi? Remember the name? Gebrselassie fans certainly do. Kamathi was the man who dethroned the great Haile G in 2001 in Edomonton when Kamathi captured the world title and Haile settled for bronze. Kamathi just moved up to the marathon last year from the 10k and he's proved to be a quick study. He ran 2:11:25 in his debut but improved that to a 2:07:33 this year in the Fortis Rotterdam Marathon, good for 3rd place. At 10k, he ran 26:51.49 (then 9th all-time) in 1999.

Joseph Ngolepus
won the real,- BERLIN MARATHON in 2001 after being a pacemaker early in the race. He felt good and surged to the surprise win. He is notorious for exciting racing exploits, finishing a surprising 3rd in London in 2003 in 2:07:57 in a fantastically close race. James Kwambai (Bib #25) is another guy that certainly cannot be overlooked. In 2007, he had his best performance, finishing second to Robert Cheruiyot in Boston, hanging on until the 25th mile, when a water stop derailed his momentum. He followed that up with a 5th in New York before a disappointing 8th in Boston this spring. He's never run a time trial type marathon like this before but he's got good speed at the shorter road distances as he ran 1:00:22 for the half earlier this year. Francis Kiprop, 26, has steadily improved in the last 3 years, now sitting on a 2:08:30 PB run in Seoul this year. Rounding out the contingent is Richard Limo's half brother Andrew Limo (Bib #24), with a modest 2:11:47 PB.

The Japanese trio could factor in the second pack, led by Toshinari Suwa, 7th at the 2007 IAAF World Championships Marathon. He has broken 2:10 four times, with his best coming at Fukuoka in 2007 (2nd, 2:07:55). His compatriot Arata Fujiwara is coming off a startling 2:08:40 performance, good for 2nd in the Tokyo International Marathon in February. Distance aficionados remember Fujiwara's Tokyo race as it represented a nearly 30-minute personal best for him and put him into Olympic contention, but ultimately the Japanese selectors left him off the team. Fujiwara may not be in Berlin as other media reports have him racing in Chicago. The third member is 39-year-old Kenjiro Jitsui, with a personal best of 2:08:50 from the olden days, 1996. Most recently, he ran 2:13:38 in Tokyo in February.

Will Haile Be Happy Yet Again?

Another 39-year-old, Luis Jesus of Portugal, will be battling Jitsui. Jesus ran 2:08:55 in 2006 at the age of 37. He paced Khalid Khannouchi to his world record at London in 2002. From Germany, Falk Cierpinski has a name that might ring a bell. He is the son of Waldemar Cierpinski. Waldemar owns (at least for now) the Olympic gold medals in the marathon from both 1976 and 1980. We say "for now" as his name surfaced in the East German drug lists and it's possible the IOC could at some point invalidate his victories. The younger Cierpinski has a best of 2:15:48, set this year in Hamburg, and is still relatively new to the event after starting as a triathlete.

LRC Predictions: 1) Haile Gebrselassie 2) Charles Kamathi 3) James Kwambai

The real question is will Haile break the record? A lot of that will depend on the pacemaking and the weather. The weather forecast for Saturday in Berlin looks promising. Friday the winds are supposed to be almost nothing and Saturday they are only supposed to be 6 mph. The temperature forecast calls for a high of 64F and low of 50F. Perfect weather might be 10 degrees cooler with zero wind. The weather likely will give him a chance.

Gebrselassie seems confident of his fitness as he said on Sept. 11, "I am convinced I can break the record again if the weather conditions are right." He knows his fitness better than anyone. We're certainly not going to bet against him, but we think predicting a sub-2:04 is a bit much. 2:04:15.

More information:
For an explanation on how the World Marathon Majors system works, please click here.
*Race Website
*Photos from last year's race
Elite Athletes

Haile Gebrselassie


bib number: 1
date of birth: 18.04.1973
personal best: 02:04:26 (Berlin 2007)
Sieger 34. real,- BERLIN-MARATHON 2007

Mesfin Adimasu


bib number: 9
date of birth: 05.03.1985
personal best: 02:09:49 (Berlin 2007)

James Kwambai


bib number: 10
date of birth: 28.02.1983
personal best: 02:10:20 (Brescia 2006)
Sieger Peking Marathon 2006

Andrew Limo


bib number: 12
date of birth: 15.03.1984
personal best: 02:11:47 (Paris 2007)

Josphat Keiyo


bib number: 15
date of birth: 01.01.1983
personal best: 02:12:19 (2. Brüssel 2007)

Charles Kamathi


bib number: 2
date of birth: 18.05.1978
personal best: 02:07:33 (Rotterdam 2008)

Gudisa Shentema


bib number: 3
date of birth: 19.06.1980
personal best: 02:07:34 (Paris 2008)

Joseph Ngolepus


bib number: 5
date of birth: 10.04.1974
personal best: 02:07:57 (London 2003)

Toshinari Suwa


bib number: 4
date of birth: 29.01.1977
personal best: 02:07:55 (Fukuoka 2003)

Francis Kiprop


bib number: 6
date of birth: 04.06.1982
personal best: 02:08:30 (Seoul 2008)

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