38 Year old Haile Gebrselassie to Run 38th 2011 BMW Berlin Marathon

By David Monti
June 17, 2011
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Like a money manager who prefers blue chip stocks, race director Mark Milde decided to go with proven athletic assets when he signed Haile Gebrselassie and Irina Mikitenko, both 38, to be his headliners for the 38th BMW Berlin Marathon which takes place 100 days from now on Sunday, September 25.  Between them, the two veterans have notched five marathon victories in the German capital in six starts since 2006, culminating in two world and two national records.

But Milde is also taking a risk.  Both Gebrselassie and Mikitenko have struggled with injuries over the past two years, and have not shown their best form.  Gebrselassie, who twice set the world record in Berlin in 2007 and 2008, hasn't finished a marathon in the past 17 months, dropping out of New York last November at the 25-K mark with knee trouble, and withdrawing from the Tokyo Marathon last February with an unrelated knee injury suffered in a fall while training.  Mikitenko, the German record holder for the distance with a 2:19:19 personal best, dropped out of the 2010 Virgin London Marathon, then finished fifth at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon the same year before recording a seventh-place showing at London last April.

Nonetheless, Gebrselassie is beloved in Berlin and his presence in the race will surely generate media and fan interest for Milde and his new title sponsor, BMW.  The feeling is mutual, the charismatic Ethiopian said.

"I love the Berlin Marathon," the two-time Olympic gold medallist said through a news release.  "The crowds are fantastic and on a good day everything is possible on this extremely fast course."

The Berlin formula has been to focus on breaking either the men's or women's world record, using a heavy dose of pacemaking (eight pacemakers were used when Gebrselassie set his world record in Berlin in 2007 and five in 2008).  For Milde, and his father Horst before him, that formula has been a success.  Four men's world records have been set in Berlin since Brazil's Ronaldo Da Costa ran the still-standing South American record of 2:06:05 in Berlin in 1998 and performed a cartwheel at the finish line.  Since then, Kenya's Paul Tergat (2:04:55, 2003) and Gebrselassie (2:04:26 in 2007 and 2:03:59 in 2008) have lowered that mark three times.  The women's record has been set twice in Berlin, first by Kenya's Tegla Loroupe in 1999 (2:20:43) and then by Japan's Naoko Takahashi in 2001 (2:19:46).

Gebrselassie said he hopes to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Marathon, and needs a fast time to be selected for what would be his fifth Olympic Games.  He has already competed in four Olympics at the 10,000m, finishing first in both 1996 and 2000 (in spectacular sprint finishes against Tergat), then fifth in 2004 and sixth in 2008.

The BMW Berlin Marathon, part of the World Marathon Majors Series, reached its 40,000 entry limit last February.  The 2010 edition of the event had 34,027 finishers, making it the second largest marathon in Europe behind London (36,550 finishers).  Race winners received 40,000 euros plus time bonuses and undisclosed appearance fees.

LetsRun.com Editor's Note: David Monti is an elite athlete coordinator for the New York City Marathon and helps select its runners.

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