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Berlin Marathon: will the women’s course record fall again?

The deepest elite women's field in the race's history will tackle the famously fast course on Sunday

2023 Berlin Marathon Berlin, Germany September 24, 2023 Photo by: photorun.net

Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa will be aiming for the course record once more in Berlin on Sunday, in the deepest elite field in the race’s 49-year history, including seven runners with  sub-2:20 personal bests. In 2022, Assefa astounded fans by improving her best by over 18 minutes, taking more than two and a half minutes off the course record with her time of 2:15:37, and earning the unique status of the only woman to break sub-two minutes for the 800m and sub 2:20 for the marathon.

“I’m delighted to be running again in Berlin,” 26-year-old Assefa said at the elite women’s press conference on Thursday. “Last year’s race proved an unexpected success for me. I think I can run even faster on Sunday, a further improvement would be a success,” she said.

Will Assefa be setting her sights on the world record of 2:14:04? She felt that might be too ambitious: “Much can happen so I cannot say at the moment what would be the halfway split,” she said on Thursday. “I want to improve my time but I am not thinking about the world record.”

Assefa will face a serious challenge from Kenya’s Sheila Chepkirui, who set a new course record at the 2022 Berlin Half Marathon in a blistering 65:02. She also took third in a speedy Valencia Marathon in 2:17:29, and ran 2:18:51 in London in April for fourth place. “My aim is to break my personal best. I can imagine going through the first half on Sunday in around 68 minutes,” she said.

Challenges could also come from Assefa’s compatriots Tigist Abayechew, third in Berlin in 2022, Hiwot Gebrekidan, second in Berlin in 2021 and Workenesh Edesa, who was fourth last year. “The women’s course record of 2:15:37 is an absolute world-class time,” said the race director Mark Milde. “But, given the strong field, we hope that this can be broken.”

Many of the elite field will simply be hoping to achieve the Olympic standard of 2:26:50.

Canada’s Malindi Elmore will toe the line

Malindi Elmore of Kelowna, B.C. looks to be in fine form to run on the same course where Natasha Wodak broke Elmore’s Canadian marathon record last year with her 2:23:12 performance. In May, Elmore threw down a gutsy race at the 2023 Tartan Ottawa International Marathon, where her goal was to get the Olympic standard; she was on pace through 30K and sitting in fourth position. Over the final 12 kilometres, she moved up two spots to finish second, but missed the standard by less than a minute. It seems unlikely she plans to reclaim her Canadian record (which is three minutes faster than the Olympic standard) this weekend, but as all marathon fans know, anything can–and usually does–happen.

Malindi Elmore Ottawa Marathon 2023
Photo: VIctah Sailer

A record number of 47,912 runners from 156 nations have entered the 49th edition of the BMW Berlin Marathon. Germany’s most spectacular road race is part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) and is also a Platinum Label Road Race of World Athletics. The men’s press conference will be held on Friday, September 22.

How to watch

The 2022 Berlin Marathon will be streamed from Canada at FloTrack, which requires a subscription, with coverage starting at 2:30 a.m. E.T. (elites start at 3:15 a.m.).

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