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Berlin Marathon top contenders.. Sunday Sept 20

Posted: 17 Sep 2009 16:27
by Ethiopians
Berlin Marathon top contenders

Watch the Berlin Marathon LIVE - Sunday, Sept. 20 at 3 a.m. ET

If speed kills, then Sunday's real-,Berlin Marathon is something of a mass murderer.

The event, Europe's largest marathon last year with 35,786 finishers, has been the site for seven marathon world records and four of the top-7 men's times in the history of marathon running. The flat course, with it's dramatic finish at the Brandenburg Gate, has seen 17 performances under 2 hours and 7 minutes, second only to the Virgin London Marathon which has 20.

Race director Mark Milde, who succeeded his father Horst who founded the race in 1974, has devised a successful format for his event with a clear focus on speed. His priority in recruiting athletes is to hand pick one or two top men or women, surround them with half a dozen pacemakers, and try to push them to the fastest times possible.

It's been a winning formula. In three of the last six editions of the race a man has set the world record. Kenyan Paul Tergat ran 2:04:55 in 2003, becoming the first man ever to crack the 2:05 barrier. Four years later, Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie dropped Tergat's mark by 29 seconds to 2:04:26. Last year, Gebrselassie became the first man under 2:04 with his still-standing world record of 2:03:59.

Gebrselassie's success in Berlin has made him the face of the race. Both Gebrselassie and the real-,Berlin Marathon have adidas as sponsors, and that synergy has allowed the event to plaster the Ethiopian's image throughout their advertising and promotional materials. Indeed, a photo of Gebrselassie with arms raised in victory greets every visitor to the event's website.

For Sunday's race, Milde has brought back Gebrselassie, but a formidable Kenyan challenger makes a fourth consecutive Berlin victory by the 36 year-old double Olympic 10,000m champion less than certain. Duncan Kibet, who transformed himself from an all-purpose road racer to a marathon runner under the training program of Italian coach Dr. Gabriele Rosa, is the second-fastest marathoner of all-time with a 2:04:27 personal best, less than half a minute behind Gebrselassie. Kibet won last April's Rotterdam Marathon in a thrilling sprint finish over training partner James Kwambai. The pair finished less than one second apart
Here is our exclusive handicapping of the race.

Top Male Contenders

Haile Gebrselassie, 36, Ethiopia
Personal best: 2:03:59, Berlin, 2008 odds: 4-7
While he has little left to prove, Gebrselassie remains fiercely competitive at 36 years-old (some experts believe he is even older). He's raced sparingly this year, but every performance was excellent. He clocked 2:05:29 to win the Dubai Marathon last January (heavy rain thwarted his world record attempt there), ran 59:50 for a half-marathon in The Hague last March, and clocked 27:39 for a 10-K road race in Manchester, England, last May. He even took a stab at his own world one-hour record at a meet in the Netherlands last June, but windy conditions forced him to settle for "only" the 7th best performance in history. Gebrselassie's experience, patience and special ability to run alone in the final stages of a marathon after the pacemakers have been exhausted give him a slight edge over the younger Kibet, who can be impetuous. Gebrselassie also has another advantage: he's a great warm weather runner. The high temperature for Sunday in Berlin is expected to be 76F with no cloud cover (the normal high is 64F).

Duncan Kibet, 31, Kenya
Personal best: 2:04:27, Rotterdam, 2009 odds: 11-8
Back in 2007, Duncan Kibet was the hottest runner on the North American road circuit. He recorded five victories that year, and developed a powerful sprint finish which his opponents feared. He moved up to the marathon the following year, and made a solid debut: a second place finish at the Vienna Marathon in 2:08:33. In his second marathon attempt in Milan in November, 2008, he won in 2:07:53. Both performance were solid, but it wasn't until this year where his growing marathon endurance became joined with his sprint speed to produce his eye-popping run in Rotterdam last April. In a perfectly executed race Kibet, and training partner James Kwambai, followed the pacemakers through halfway in 1:02:35. He and Kwambai matched strides until the final 500m on the Coolsingel where the two traded surges and Kibet got the victory by 6/10ths of a second in 2:04:27, the second-fastest marathon ever run. Most impressively, he ran the second half of the race in 1:01:52, a time which would win most half-marathons. Beating Gebrselassie here would be an upset, but only a slight one, and would surely give Kibet the #1 ranking for marathoners from Track & Field News at year-end.

Eshetu Wondimu, 27, Ethiopia
Personal best: 2:08:41, Dubai, 2009 odds: 28-1
Like most of the rest of the field at Berlin, Wondimu probably doesn't think he can beat Gebrselassie or Kibet. However, he's certainly looking to drop his career best time by a minute or two, something which is entirely within his grasp. Wondimu's marathon best of 2:08:41 isn't indicative of his potential. He's run 56:52 for 20 km (2006), 27:11.93 for 10,000m on the track (2007), and 1:00:01 for the half-marathon (2008). Those performances all point to a marathon time in the 2:06 range. His fitness, however, is hard to assess: he has yet to post a result in a major race this year.

Atsushi Fujita, 32, Japan
Personal best: 2:06:51, Fukuoka, 2000 odds: 66-1
Here's an athlete looking to get back some of his old magic. Back in 2000 as a little-known 24 year-old, he was the surprise winner of the Fukuoka Marathon, Japan's most prestigious, in a then national record of 2:06:51. He was showered with attention, and appeared to be the next Big Thing in Japanese marathoning. But duplicating that effort has been elusive for Fujita, now 32. He managed to win two other marathons (Seoul in 2002 and Oita in 2007), but his next best time was fully three minutes slower than his personal best. He was a disappointing 10th at the Tokyo Marathon last March in 2:14:00. A good run in Berlin would make for a great comeback story.

David Langat, 29, Kenya
Personal best: 2:08:58, Paris, 2006 odds: 25-1
A podium finish for Langat will be difficult, but he's got the stuff to do it if his training has gone well. Langat has sub-2:08 potential, evidenced by his 1:00:47 half-marathon personal best. He's also got pluck. In a marathon in Dusseldorf, Germany, last May, he was entered as a pacemaker. His job was to help established star Wilfred Kigen run a fast time. Instead, Langat noticed that Kigen was having trouble with is stride (it was later revealed that he had a calf injury), and Langat decided to press ahead to the finish instead of dropping out as intended. He ended up winning the race, picking up 10,000 euros.
Others to watch

Francis Kiprop (KEN) odds: 20-1
Mariko Kiplagat (KEN) odds: 33-1
Dereje Tulu (ETH) odds: 20-1
Alfred Kering (KEN) odds: 20-1
Cuthbert Nyasango (ZIM) odds: 20-1

Top Female Contenders

Askale Magarsa Tafa, 24, Ethiopia
Personal best: 2:21:31, Berlin, 2008
Admittedly, she's not as well-known as the legends of Ethiopian distance running, like Gete Wami, Meseret Defar or Tirunesh Dibaba, but Magarsa is a damn good marathoner. In fact, Magarsa is the second-fastest Ethiopian woman at the marathon distance of all time, thanks to her second place finish in Berlin last year in 2:21:31. That performance which went largely unnoticed because Magarsa was soundly beaten by German Irina Mikitenko who became the fourth-fastest woman of all-time in 2:19:19 (Mikitenko is running Chicago this year). Magarsa was supposed to run the Dubai Marathon last January but scratched due to an injury. She hasn't competed since then. In 2008 she was third in Dubai in 2:23:23, fifth in Boston in 2:29:48 and second in Berlin, where she set her personal best. She's the best woman entered here.

Mamitu Daska, 25, Ethiopia
Personal best: Making marathon debut
She's only been assigned bib F30, but Mamitu Daska is definitely a contender for victory in Berlin. Quiet and reserved --she barely smiled after finishing second at last month's New York City Half-Marathon-- Daska scored two big victories on the USA road circuit last summer: she was first at the Dick's Sporting Goods Bolder Boulder 10-K last May and won the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race last month. At the NYC Half, she was beaten only by world marathon record holder, Paula Radcliffe. Daska ran a personal best 1:11:04 in warm and very humid conditions. If her training has been right, she could pop a good first marathon in Berlin.

Atsede Habtamu Besuye, 21, Ethiopia

Personal best: 2:25:17, Dubai, 2009
The Ethiopian theme at Berlin continues with Habtamu. Just 21, she's already run two marathons this year: second in Dubai in January in her debut at the distance (2:25:17) and 7th in Boston (2:35:34). Following a trend amongst the Ethiopians who are moving up to the marathon at younger and younger ages because of the financial incentives, Habtamu was already an accomplished half-marathoner as a teenager. She finished an astounding 5th at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in 2007 as a 19 year-old, clocking 1:08:29. She was 8th in those championships last year in 1:11:13. She'll be fighting for the win at Berlin.

Silvia Skvortsova, 34, Russia

Personal best: 2:27:07, London, 2002
A veteran, Skvortsova's stocky build belies her abilities as a marathoner. She doesn't have an impressive personal best, but has a great feel for her own abilities and can win when toughness counts more than speed. For instance, at the 2007 Las Vegas Marathon, a handful of elite women were given an 18-minute and three second headstart, including Skvortsova. She was much stronger than the other gals, and was almost immediately alone in the front. She ran the entire 26.2 mile distance by herself, and held off the field of elite men who were chasing her. Her 2:29:01 course record doesn't look so impressive on paper, but that was a gutsy run. Most recently, Skvortsova showed excellent fitness, wining the Russian Half-Marathon Championship in Cheboksary on Sept. 5.

Tatiana Aryasova, 30, Russia

Personal best: 2:29:09, Los Angeles, 2008
Aryasova is the sleeper athlete in this field because she hasn't yet converted her track speed into a fast marathon. Aryasova has run 31:04.88 for 10,000m. That's equivalent to a 2:25:04 marathon, but her best performance is four minutes slower than that. Berlin is her best chance so far to pop a fast one, if it's not too warm.
Others to watch

Genet Getaneh (ETH) Leah Malot (KEN) Rosaria Console (ITA)
sourceuniversal sport

Re: Berlin Marathon top contenders.. Sunday Sept 20

Posted: 17 Sep 2009 20:37
by Ethiopians
In 2008 Gebrselassie breaks marathon record in Berlin