Overnight rains on Saturday night means it will be a lot more difficult for the world marathon record to be broken at the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon Sunday morning.
Kenya’s Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopia’s defending champion Kenenisa Bekele and 2013 winner, former world record holder Wilson Kipsang, have both set their sights on breaking Dennis Kimetto’s three-year-old world best of two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds.
Kipchoge dictated a halfway split of 60 minutes and 45 seconds, an amazingly fast time that is one minute faster than Kimetto’s 21-kilometre split en route to the world record in 2014.
Pacemakers Sammy Kitwara, Gideon Kipketer and Geoffrey Rono have been detailed to push this pace before dropping out at the 30km mark, leaving Bekele, Kipsang and Kipchoge to chase the clock.
But the showers on Saturday night mean that humidity levels will rise to as high as 98 percent, with experts saying these conditions will make it more difficult for the trio to eclipse Kimetto’s world record time.
The weather forecast for Berlin Sunday is 14 degrees Celsius at start time, rising to 14 degrees in the second half of the race.
Chances of more rain today are at 30 percent, with Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei among those who will follow the race here Sunday.
In Eldoret, athletes and fans will converge at the Klique Hotel on the Eldoret-Nairobi highway to follow the race in a special screening organised by Bank of Africa while in Iten, Kipsang’s Keellu Resort is expected to also fill up for the live broadcast.
“With the rain, it means the humidity levels will be very high because of the evaporation as the day progresses, making it quite difficult for the world record to fall… but we remain hopeful,” Arien Verkade of Volare Sport, the Dutch athlete management company that handles Kipsang, said on Saturday night at the Intercontinental Hotel, the official marathon hotel.
For a world record to fall, conditions should be near perfect, and, in hindsight, Bekele will be ruing the missed chance last year when he won the race in 2:03:03, a personal best time that was just seven seconds shy of a new world record.
This year, he says his training has also been affected by injury and that he did not complete his training programme 100 percent.
“I regret I didn’t beat the record because I was very close,” he said in a pre-race interview here.
“Before the race, I wanted to run a personal best time and so a world record was not in my mind – I made a big mistake.”
In last year’s race, Bekele, 35, who trains in Addis Ababa under coach Asrat Mersha, caught up with and outsprinted Kipsang, the latter finishing second also in a personal best time of 2:03:13.
“This year we have stronger competitors and when the best athletes come together, the record can fall,” he added, noting that he will follow the pace and see how his body reacts, tactics that Kipsang says could affect the world record pace.
“Bekele is not used to running at the front but likes to run from behind and towards the end tries to close the gap and go ahead, but that’s not always working, like what happened in London,” Kipsang said here in a pre-race interview.
“Eliud is more consistent and runs an even pace.”
Kipsang, who travelled here with his wife Doreen and daughter Joy, rates his winning chances at “80 percent” with a high possibility of a world record time.
“My shape this year is better than it was last year. Last year I wasn’t strong enough towards the end but this time I have the potential to run fast towards the end.
“My chances are 80 percent and there’s a possibility of a world record, and it’s not about beating your opponent, but running a world record.”
Kipchoge, with a personal best time of 2:03:05 is more reserved, preferring not to talk about his opponents’ chances.
“I will run my own race. You see, I’m Eliud Kipchoge, that’s why you are interviewing me… I don’t want to talk about other athletes but I respect them, and that’s sportsmanship,” he said and added, philosophically:
“If you are coming here for success, then good things are not an option, but a necessity.
“I’m ready for a fast race, I have a personal best time of 2:00:25 and my body is ready,” he noted, referring to his May 6 attempt at running the marathon in under two hours in a special race in Monza, Italy, that saw him fall short by 26 seconds.
“I will programme my mind to take me to the finish line. I’m here for a fast time.”
Kenya’s Patrick Makau, who won here in 2011 in a then world record time of 2:03:38, withdrew late due to a knee injury, with other Kenyan men expected to line up being Seoul Marathon runner-up Felix Kandie (2:06:03), former Zurich Marathon champion Frankline Chepkwony (2:06:11) and 2007 world champion Luke Kibet (2:08:52).
The women’s race has been heavily overshadowed by the men’s world record attempt with 2015 Berlin winner Gladys Cherono (2:19:25) the only sub-2:20 runner in a field that also has Kenya’s Prague Marathon champion Valery Aiyabei (2:21:57).
They will be up against Ethiopians Gulume Tolessa (2:23:12), a veteran of 14 marathons and winner in Hong Kong this year, 2015 Paris Marathon champion Meseret Mengistu (2:23:26), Ruti Aga (2:24:41), third in Berlin last year, and Barcelona Marathon champion Helen Tola (2:25:04) who has won three of her last four marathons.
When Josephus Maria Melchior Hermens speaks about athletics, you listen.