ATHLETICS Preview: World marathon records in peril at Berlin

Another sub-2:00 marathon try for Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge

Thanks to its flat, fast course, the home of the world marathon record is the Berlin Marathon.

The 45th edition of this famous race comes Sunday, with strong attempts expected to be made on both the men’s and women’s world marks. Since Kenya’s Paul Tergat ran 2:04:55 in 2003, the men’s world record has belonged to this race, with five improvements coming in 2007-08-11-13-14.

The Berlin race has been the site for women’s world marks in 1999 and 2001, but the fastest times of late have come in London, including British star Paula Radcliffe’s amazing 2:15:25 in a mixed-gender race in 2003 and the 2:07:01 “women’s only” mark for Mary Keitany (KEN) in 2017.

The top entries for 2018:

∙ 2:03:05 ‘16 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) ~ 2016 Olympic Champion, no. 4 all-time (2:03:05)
∙ 2:03:13 ‘15 Wilson Kipsang (KEN) ~ 2012 Olympic bronze, no. 6 all-time (2:03:13)
∙ 2:05:21 ‘15 Eliud Kiptanui (KEN) ~ Set PR in Berlin for second in 2015
∙ 2:05:43 ‘17 Amos Kipruto (KEN) ~ Third in Tokyo Marathon in 2018 (2:06:33)
∙ 2:05:50 ‘18 Abera Kuma (ETH) ~ PR for second in Amsterdam in April

Kipchoge is the unquestioned favorite and, despite his comments otherwise, has Dennis Kimetto’s 2014 world record – set in Berlin – of 2:02:57 in his sights. Kipchoge has run 10 career marathons and won nine, including his last eight in a row from 2014-18, not including his 2:00:25 time trial in Monza last year. The last marathon he lost was in Berlin in 2013, but he won this race in 2015 and 2017. He won the London Marathon in 2:04:17 in April. His marathon prowess is so great that it’s often forgotten that he was the World Champion in the 5,000 m way back in 2003!

Besides Kipchoge, there are only four runners with bests under 2:06 in the race, led by former world-record holder Wilson Kipsang (KEN). He set the then-record of 2:03:23 in winning the 2013 Berlin Marathon, ran second in Berlin in 2016 (2:03:13) and won in Tokyo last year in 2:03:58. He’s run under 2:04:00 four times!

∙ 2:17:56 ‘17 Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) ~ Triple Olympic gold, no. 3 all-time (2:17:56)
∙ 2:19:25 ‘15 Gladys Cherono (KEN) ~ Won Berlin in ‘15 & ‘17; Half-Mar World Champ ‘14
∙ 2:19:31 ’12 Aselefech Mergia (KEN) ~ World Champs bronze ‘09; London winner in 2010
∙ 2:19:50 ‘12 Edna Kiplagat (KEN) ~ 2011 and 2013 World Champion; silver in 2017
∙ 2:20:41 ‘17 Ruti Aga (ETH) ~ Third at Berlin 2016 and second in 2017

If Dibaba, who will turn 33 on 1 October, is fit, she could threaten Radcliffe’s 2003 absolute world record of 2:15:25 or Keitany’s women’s-only mark of 2:17:01. But Dibaba has had only mixed success in her four career marathons, finishing third (2:20:35) in London in 2014, second in London (2:17:56 national record) in London in 2017, win in Chicago in 2017 (2:18:31) and then didn’t finish in London earlier this year. Of course, she’s a triple Olympic gold medalist at the 10,000 m (2008-12) and 5,000 m (2008) and a nine-time World Champion in Cross Country and track from 2003-13.

This will be only the third race of the year for Dibaba, after the DNF in London and a 10 km road race win in Manchester (GBR) in May.

Kenya’s Kiplagat ranks only 22nd all-time with her 2012 best of 2:19:50, but she is at her best in championship racing, with two World Championships golds, a silver and a fifth in the last four races in 2011-13-15-17. In the World Marathon Majors, she been on the podium consistently: in the last three years, she won Boston in 2017, was second in Chicago in 2016, third in Tokyo in 2016 and fourth in New York last year. She was eighth in the miserable conditions at Boston in April, so she’ll be looking for redemption here. A PR perhaps, at age 38?

There’s substantial prize money on the line, with € 40,000-20,000-15,000-12,000-10,000-7,500-5,000-4,000-3,000-2,000 available to the top 10 finishers in both the men’s and women’s races. There is also a € 50,000 bonus for a world record and time bonuses for times under 2:04 and 2:05 for men and 2:19 and 2:20:30 for women.

The overall race will include an impressive 49,980 marathon runners from 133 nations and some 70,000 racers combined in all of the events over the marathon weekend.

NBCSN will have live coverage from Berlin beginning at 3 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday morning. Look for results here.