It’s not too often that the world’s top marathoners line up and face off in the same race. But Sunday’s Berlin Marathon will feature three of the absolute best.
With the abundance of world-class races that make up the Abbott World Marathon Majors – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City – the fastest athletes are often split up in order to improve their odds of winning and collecting lucrative prize purses. However, on Sunday, Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele and Wilson Kipsang go head-to-head (to-head) in what is being dubbed a world record attempt.
BERLIN 🇩🇪 ➡️ SEPT. 24. 🇪🇹 @kenenisabekele, 🇰🇪 @kipchogeeliud and 🇰🇪 Wilson Kipsang, who you got? Discussion on Friday’s episode of the @shakeoutpodcast. #canadianrunning 📸: SCC EVENTS/Jiro Mochizuki @berlinmarathon @sscevents @nikerunning @adidasrunning @maurten_official @globalsportscommunication #shakeoutpodcast #berlinmarathon #runningpodcast #eliudkipchoge #wilsonkipsang @nnrunningteam
The race begins at 3:15 a.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 24 and is being streamed live in Canada on CBC Sports. As mentioned, the elite men’s race is not one to miss.
The men’s contenders
Eliud Kipchoge, 32, Kenya
Fresh off his incredible 2:00:25 performance as part of Nike’s Breaking2 project, Kipchoge is considered by many to be the best marathoner in the world and the slight favourite in this race. Kipchoge hasn’t lost a marathon in the past four years–he last got beat by Kipsang in Berlin in 2013–but some will argue that the Breaking 2 project (which took place in early May), took more out of him that he’s willing to admit. His preparation seems to have gone smoothly and both he and his coaches are confident of victory.
PB: 2:03:05 (London 2016). Also ran 2:00:25 at Nike Breaking2
2016 Olympic marathon champion
2015 Berlin Marathon champion
Kenenisa Bekele, 35, Ethiopia
Bekele is arguably one of the best distance runners of all time and is the world record holder in both the 5K (12:37.35) and 10K (26:17.53). However, he is a relative newcomer to the marathon having only made his debut back in 2014 and having only finished five marathons in his career–he’s DNFed on two occasions. That said, he technically owns the fastest PB of the top three contenders, having run 2:03:03 when he won Berlin a year ago in stunning fashion. There are a number of unknowns concerning Bekele and some lack confidence in his fitness and preparation, but if he is fit, there is no doubt he will be a force to reckon with.
PB: 2:03:03 (Berlin 2016)
5,000m/10,000m world record holder
2016 Berlin Marathon champion
Wilson Kipsang, 35, Kenya
Not long ago, Kipsang was considered the greatest marathoner of our time (and an argument could be made that he still is). He has nine marathon victories to his name including five World Major Marathon wins. He’s run sub 2:04 an incredible four times including once setting the former world record in 2:03:23 (Berlin 2013). He won the 2017 Tokyo Marathon in a course record (2:03:58) and has had plenty of time to prepare for this. He is also sponsored by Adidas and no doubt wants to beat the other two, both of whom represent Nike.
PB: 2:03:13 (Berlin 2016)
Only runner to have ever beaten Kipchoge in a marathon (Berlin 2013)
Former marathon world record holder (2:03:23)
2013 Berlin Marathon champion
The rest of the elite field features a number of guys in the 2:05-2:10 range and did include former world record holder Patrick Makau (who has since dropped out), but honestly, we’d be shocked if anyone but one of the above three guys wins this race. Expect a very fast first half split–rumoured to be around 60:50–led by three pacers who will stay on as long as they can. World records are usually set with a slight negative split and the “real” race won’t get underway until at least 30K, so be sure to tune in for the final 30 minutes or so.
In the women’s field, five women have run under 2:24 for the marathon including one, Gladys Cherono, who has broken the 2:20 barrier. Unlike the men, Berlin is not the home of the women’s marathon world record. Rather, London is, a mark which currently stands at 2:15:25, set by Paula Radcliffe in 2003.
The women’s contenders
Gladys Cherono, 34, Kenya
World half-marathon champion
2015 Berlin Marathon champion
Amane Beriso, 25, Ethiopia
Runner-up, 2016 Dubai Marathon
Valary Aiyabei, 26, Kenya
Four race win streak at marathons
Perhaps the most intriguing runner of the top women is Valary Aiyabei, who has won four consecutive marathons she’s raced. Those wins notably include Barcelona, Prague and Valencia as she has gone from 2:31 to 2:21 over that span.
Ethiopia’s Aberu Kebede, who won the Berlin Marathon in 2010, 2012 and 2016, was slated to race but has withdrawn due to injury.