Haile Gebrselassie, the most famous name in long distance running joins the head of the World Marathon Majors (WMM) leaderboard following his victory in the real,-BERLIN-MARATHON in 2hr 05min 56sec on Sunday morning. The WMM - a union of the top five global marathons - is three races through the first year of its inaugural two year series, and multi-world record holder and Olympic and world titleist Gebrselassie joins Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot and Felix Limo, winners of the Boston Marathon and Flora London Marathon earlier this year. The Ethiopian star and the two Kenyans all have 25 points, going into the final two races this year, The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon on October 22, and the ING New York City Marathon on November 5.
Another famous Ethiopian, Gete Wami won the Berlin women's race. Wami, the world 10,000 metres champion from Seville '97, and Olympic silver medallist from Sydney clocked 2.21.34, and dominated the women's section in the German capital as easily as her compatriot had done in the men's race. Wami too now has 25 points, and joins the Boston and London winners, Rita Jeptoo of Kenya and Deena Kastor of the USA at the top of the WMM leader board.
The IAAF World Championships in Osaka 2007 will also count towards the inaugural WMM titles, and the two leaders (one woman, one man) at the end of next year will win an extra US$500,000, in addition to their individual race purses. In Berlin, Gebrselassie and Wami won 50,000 euros each ($64,000), with Gebrselassie taking a bonus of 30,000 euros ($38,000) for breaking 2.06.30. His time makes him the fifth fastest man in history, with the equal seventh fastest time.
�"My time was fine", said Gebrselassie. The newly crowned real, BERLIN MARATHON champ. �"Of course, you always try to run faster, but I know that I join the leader board and there will be other chances for records in future races."
For a very long time, it looked as if Gebrselassie had launched a successful assault on his great rival Paul Tergat's world record of 2.04.55, set in this same race in 2003. But the tiny Ethiopian's challenge evaporated in the closing kilometres, and he eventually finished one minute and one second behind the Kenyan's time, with 2.05.56. The race was run in bright sunshine throughout, with temperatures rising from 16C (59F) at the 9am start, to 20C (68F) at the finish.
Any chance of breaking the record was lost between 35 and 40k. Going into the last seven kilometres, Gebrselassie was 22 seconds up on Tergat's time, but with two kilometres to go, he was 22 seconds down. It was impossible to recoup the deficit. In any case, he was suffering, and when he finished, lifted a left foot in some discomfort. �"I knew at halfway that the record was within reach", he said. �"But after 35K, it became very difficult for me to push. The last 5K really hurt."
His time was nonetheless a personal best for the 33 year old, beating the 2.06.20, set in similar circumstances in Amsterdam a year ago. In the Netherlands, he was also well up on Tergat's record until the closing stages. Here in Berlin, there were two factors militating against Gebrselassie. Like Amsterdam, he was on his own for the last 14 kilometres, whereas Tergat was first headed until 41k, then chased right to line by Sammy Korir three years ago. Gebrselassie also had to cope with a fluctuating wind. Korir, incidentally dropped out this year at 26k.
Gebrselassie had resolutely refused pre-race to discuss any attempt on the world record, and he was equally downbeat afterwards. �"It was OK, not bad. If I could break the world record, it would be fantastic, but this was fantastic too. The temperature was fine, but the wind was a bit of a problem, it was coming from different directions. But it was fantastic, I'm happy. It's true there was no one to push me, but I will break the world record one day, I'm sure". Contacted in Kenya by telephone, Tergat, who is due to run in New York said, �"Going for the world record is not easy, it's always tough. Absolutely, I congratulate Haile for a great run."
Korir, 34, had been widely tipped to challenge the Ethiopian for victory, and the second fastest man in history, with his 2.04.56 behind Tergat in 2003, began well. He traded strides with Gebrselassie throughout the opening 15 kilometres, but then started to falter. He dropped back at 19 kilometres, had a brief rally shortly afterwards, but when Gebrselassie disappeared with the pacers, he succombed to a hamstring pull, and dropped out at 26 kilometres. The crunch began for Gebrselassie when his Kenyan pace-makers, Jason Mbote and James Kwambai dropped out at 25 and 28 kilometres respectively.
So, with two years to go until his predicted retirement following the Beijing Olympics, Gebreselassie remains on 21 world records broken, compared to the 23 by the immortal Paavo Nurmi, the �Flying Finn'. But it was a measure of the conditions in Berlin that the runners-up finished way behind the Ethiopian star. His colleague, Gudisa Shentema was second in 2.10.43, with Kurao Umeki, of JAPAN, third in 2.13.43.
Terefe Yae, of Ethiopia, fourth place and Ahmed Ezzobayry, of France, also earn points in the World Marathon Majors Series with their third and fourth place finishes at Berlin.
Just like in the men's race, the predicted Ethiopan-Kenyan duel in the women's race evaporated at 19 kilometres, when Salina Kosgei dropped back, and left the field to Wami. The former 10,000 metres world champion from 1997, profited from the pace-making of Kenyan, Christopher Kandie, who had been instrumental in helping Paula Radcliffe to the world record of 2.15.25 in London 2003.
Wami was never going to challenge that time, but the Ethiopian won as easily as her compatriot, finishing in 2.21.34, also breaking her personal best of 2.22.19, set in her winning debut in Amsterdam in 2002. It was again a measure of the adverse conditions that Wami briefly received medical attention, suffering with dehydration. Kosgei was second in 2.23.22, also a new personal best, bettering her 2.24.32, which was also a winning debut in Paris 2004. Third was Monica Drybulski of Poland, in 2.30.12.
�"It was a wonderful race", said Wami. �"I've always wished to run and win in Berlin and from 30K onward I knew that I would win this race. The weather was good, the air was clear and the atmosphere was strong. I already know that I would like to be back here in a future year to try to set my personal best at this race."
Ashi Gigi, of Ethiopia, and Marcia Narlock, of Brazil, who were fourth and fifth respectively at Berlin, are now on the leader board, as well.
WORLD MARATHON MAJORS POINTS STANDINGS
1. Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia 25 points BER
Felix Limo, Kenya 25 LON
Robert K. Cheruiyot, Kenya 25 BOS
2. Gudisa Shentema, Ethiopia 15 BER
Martin Lel, Kenya 15 LON
Benjamin Maiyo, Kenya 15 BOS
3. Kurao Umeki, Japan 10 BER
Hendrick Ramaala, South Africa 10 LON
Meb Keflezighi,USA 10 BOS
4.Terefe Yae, Ethiopia 5 BER
Khalid Khannouchi, USA 5 LON
Brian Sell, USA 5 BOS
5.Ahmed Ezzobayry, France 1 BER
Stefano Baldini, Italy 1 LON
Alan Culpepper, USA 1 BOS
1. Gete Wami, Ethiopia 25 points BER
Deena Kastor, USA 25 LON
Rita Jeptoo, Kenya 25 BOS
2. Salina Kosgei, Kenya 15 BER
Ludmilla Petrova, Russia 15 LON
Jelena Prokopcuka, Latvia 15 BOS
3. Monica Drybulska, Poland 10 BER
Susan Chepkemei, Kenya 10 LON
Reiko Tosa, Japan 10 BOS
4. Asha Gigi, Ethiopia 5 BER
Berhane Adere, Ethiopia 5 LON
Bruna Genovese, Italy 5 BOS
5. Marcia Narlock, Brazil 1 BER
Galina Bogomolova, Russia 1 LON
Kiyoko Shimahara, Japan 1 BOS