The 44th BMW Berlin Marathon on Sunday, 24 September will feature possibly the greatest clash in marathon history. The current top three marathon runners in the world will be on the start line in the men's race and two women who have four Berlin victories between them will compete in the women's race.
BMW Berlin Marathon has achieved near legendary status as the world's fastest course with more world records set here than anywhere else and the venue for the world's leading men's time of the year for a remarkable six consecutive years (2011-2016). Last year there were 40,000 finishers from 122 countries cheered on by an estimated million spectators and Berlin is one of eight Abbott World Marathon Major events with a $1million total prize purse.
For the first time in the history of the event the top three men will be on the start line as Kenya's Olympic champion, Eliud Kipchoge and Wilson Kipsang take on Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele. Kipchoge has already stated his intention to break the world record (2:02:57) of his compatriot Dennis Kimetto, set in Berlin in 2014. Kipchoge ran an extraordinary 2:00:25, the fastest time ever for the marathon distance, in the Nike project Breaking2 at the beginning of May but this feat did not qualify for record purposes.
Kipchoge's credentials are obvious but he will first have to win the race. In his way stands 35-year-old Wilson Kipsang, whose career highlight came four years ago in Berlin, when he took 15 seconds off Patrick Makau’s world record for 2:03:23, which stood as the world record for just 12 months until Kimetto became the first man to run under two hours and three minutes.
Bekele set a personal best of 2:03:03 in 2016 and missed the world record by a mere six seconds. The 35-year-old Ethiopian is the most successful all-round long distance runner in history. Three times Olympic champion and world champion on five occasions, he has also won 11 World Cross Country titles and holds the world records for 5,000m and 10,000m.
A strong line-up in the women's race features six athletes who have broken 2:24, led by the 2015 Berlin champion, Gladys Cherono (Kenya, 2:19:25). She will have keen competition in the form of triple Berlin winner and defending champion, Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia, 2:20:30) and fellow Ethiopian Amane Beriso (2:20:48).
Mark Milde, race director of BMW Berlin Marathon since 1999, is delighted at this summit meeting of such distance running talent: “It’s a dream match-up. It’s not often that the three strongest marathon men in the world race each other. As organisers we are crossing our fingers for good weather and thrilling competition.”
Image courtesy BMW Berlin Marathon