It’s a lull before a storm. After a disappointing sixth place finish in the Boston Marathon last April, world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge returns to a familiar ground to prove his mettle.
Kipchoge, the two-time Olympic champion, will square it out with a rich field at the 49th Berlin Marathon showdown on Sunday at 10am.
Sheila Chepkirui, fourth at the London Marathon last April, is Kenya’s sole representative in the women’s contest.
Kipchoge has set two world records in the German premier 42km race and lines up in Berlin for the sixth time, having won 15 of his 18 career marathons.
No other marathon course has proved too good for Kipchoge than competing in the Deutschland.
In five appearances in Berlin, he has won the race four times, setting world records in the last two in 2018 and 2022. His only defeat came in his first appearance in 2013 when posted a personal best of 2:04.05 where Wilson Kipsang set a then world record of 2:03.23.
It now remains to be seen if Kipchoge, who is coming off a rare defeat at the energy-sapping Boston Marathon course, will weather the storm in Berlin on Sunday.
It’s possible only if he will summon his 59.51 time at the halfway mark in Berlin last year. Only time will tell.
The Berlin Marathon is very crucial for Kipchoge in his bid for a third title at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
He will face stiff challenges from 2022 London Marathon winner Amos Kipruto and Ethiopia’s Andamlak Belihu.
The 31-year-old Kipruto hadn’t broken 2:05:41 in any of his first nine career marathons – although he had finished in the top three in six of them and had won bronze at the 2019 World Championship bronze in Doha.
Then in 2020, he ran 2:03:30 in the Valencia Marathon. After dropping out at the Olympics in Tokyo, Kipruto was second behind Kipchoge at the 2022 Tokyo Marathon, posting 2:03.13, despite being part of the lead pack alongside Kipchoge that took a wrong turn at 10km.
Kipruto, who trains under the 2Running Athletics Club in Kapsabet, won last year’s London Marathon in 2:04.39 before dropping out at this year’s edition in April.
He trains together with Boston Marathon winners Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto.
Other Kenyans on the start line include Mark Korir, Josphat Boit, Philemon Kiplimo, Abel Kipchumba, Silas Sugut and Dominic Nyairo. Uganda’s Olympic champion Jacob Kiplimo is among a host of pacesetters.
Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa, who shocked the athletics world in the Berlin Marathon last year with a jaw-dropping 2:15.37, will be back for a second bite at the cherry.
Although Assefa took more than two minutes off the course record, the time no longer seems crazy after Ruth Chepng’etich ran 2:14:18 in Chicago and Amane Beriso, another Ethiopian, ran 2:14:58 in the Valencia Marathon last December.
Assefa’s biggest rival is Sheila Chepng’etich, who carries a 64:36 best mark in the 21km set at the RAK Half Marathon.
Ethiopian runners make up places three to five on the list of fastest women’s runners at this year’s Berlin Marathon, with Tigist Abayechew (2:18:03), Workenesh Edesa (2:18.51) and Hiwot Gebrekidan (2:19:10) all sub 2:20 runners.
Chepkirui, who runs under Ikaika Sports stable, made her marathon debut at last year’s Valencia Marathon where she settled for third place in 2:17:29 to set her personal best time.
She then finished fourth in the London Marathon in 2:18:51 in April. Tomorrow could be the right time for Chepkirui’s first World Marathon Majors victory in Berlin.