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Berlin Marathon Report – 28 September 2003

Paul Tergat Berlin 2003 - WR 2:04:55

Paul Tergat Berlin 2003 - WR 2:04:55

Berlin, Germany – Paul Tergat of Kenya, came to the Berlin marathon with one goal in mind. The World Record [WR] for the 42.2K distance. This record stood behind the name of Khallid Khannouchi of the US, by way of Morocco. The time was 2:05:38 and this had been established at the duel of London in 2002, where Tergat was to finish 2nd.

This was Berlin 2003, another year and almost perfect conditions faced the runners as they toed the line to the beat of Sir Simon Rattle from Britain, the director of the Berlin Philharmonic, with assistance from the Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit.

Conditions read as follows : 7 degrees Centigrade, a bright, clear day and ideal for running.

The pacemakers for the elite men had been asked to go through half-way in 63:30 to 64:00. The course in known to be faster over the 2nd half, so the idea would be to conserve sufficient energy for the final assault over the last 10K which is known to favour runners.

Under the watchful eye of Tergat’s coach, Italian Dr. Gabriele Rosa, the race begins. The Rosa camp has supplied 2 top class pacesetters in the form of Titus Munji and Sammy Korir, so they will know exactly what the one time 5 time winner of the World XCountry title needs.

There are a mass of runners numbering 35 000, which makes Berlin one of the largest mass partcipation marathon events on the planet.

The race gets underway and the 1st kilometer is covered in 2:58, the kind of pace needed to be on target for an attempt on the WR. Tergat has discussed race plans with Tegla Laroupe, who has previously won here in a Women’s WR, and the plan is to keep things in reserve for the 2nd half of the race. And all seems to be as planned reaching 5K in 15:00 a 2:06:35 but no reason to panic.

The lead group is made up of the pacemakers Christopher Kandie (21), Philemon Rotich (89) and Matthew Sigei (87), with the all-red clad Tergat is placed just behind his compatriots in the lead pack.

almost a minute slower than world record pace of Khannouchi in London two years ago. The lead pack went through a drinks station but Tergat appeared to miss his drink.

The pace hovers between 2:55 to 3min per km, and the Africans have now been joined by the Japanese runners, Satoshi Osaki [2:09:38 PB] and Kurao Umeki [2:14:50 PB]. With 10K coming up in 29:57 a 2:06:30 pace.

On the Women’s side of the race, there is not as much attention as the Men’s event, because this year has not attracted the big names. They pass through 10 km in 34:46 on pace for a 2:26 finish. In the lead group is former World Champion race walker Alina Ivanova of Russia with the two Japanese athletes, Yasuko Hashimoto and Fumi Murata, and Italian Ornella Ferrara in close attendance.

From 10 to 15K, there is a slight acceleration from the pacemakers and the time passing through 15K is 44.46 [14:49 5K split] With this gentle increase they are now within the circle needed to break Khannouchi`s 2:05:38.

Hashimoto Berlin 2003

Hashimoto Berlin 2003

15 km women : 52:12 and a pace pointing to just inside 2:27. Ivanova still leads with the 2 Japanese Hashimoto and Murata with the Italian Ferrara, all placed in a good posotion.

Half-Marathon : the halfway split was 63:01, faster than the pre-race 63:30 plan, but not achieved off a suicidal pace that has slowed to a 63:30 but at a tempo that has gradually increased.

The more fancied Osaki, suprisingly is the first of the 2 Japanese athletes to drift slightly off the lead pack, with compatriot Umeki tracking Tergat, who gives him the compulsory glance needed to warn a fellow athlete of the dangers of running so close to one’s heels.

By 25 km men : 1:25:42. Five men in lead group now. Munji in front with Tergat among the lead quintet. There is a slight split in the front group with a gap of 5 meters opening to the Umeki and Jacob Losian.

On towards the 30K mark and there are 3 men in front now, Tergat just behind Titus Munji and Sammy Korir, the designated pacemakers. The defending champion Raymond Kipkoech has dropped by 10m and appears to be losing contact.

One would suspect that Tergat can now concentrate on the clock as they pass through 30K in 1:29:24 [ a 2:05 pace ] , however he should know more than anyone not to allow the pacemakers to venture too far ahead, after losing in Chicago in 2001 to Ben Kimondiu 2:08:52, the designated pacer. With a 2:08:14 PB Korir, will be watched with keen interest.

Halfway women : The lead group is unchanged with the Russian leading the 2 Japanese and Italian athletes. They pass through 25K in 1:27:25. The original lead group now has Ana Dias from Portugal in contention with Kenyan’s Emily Kimuria and Lenah Cheruiyot within six seconds of the lead. The pace is hovering around a 2:27 finish.

The defending champion, Raymond Kipkoech, is out the backdoor and is over a minute off the pace.

Approaching 33 km and the men go through in 1:35:11. Tergat on a 2:05 pace and sitting comfortably behind the ‘rabbits’. They move into the last 10 km on target for a new WR.

35 km 1:43:59. The leading 3 are now on target for a 2:05:15 finish at this pace. Munji drops from the leading 2 and Korir looks set to challenge tergat for the Berlin title, as well as the World’s fastest athlete over the distance.

On the Women’s front : At 29 km Ivanova has established a lead of 10 metres. The Japanese Hashimoto and Murata are behind with Sporting Lisbon’s Dias, making up the green clad pursuers.

Back to the Men’s action where it is all happening. There is no doubt that Korir is racing this one, and why not. Muiji is no longer in contention and he has more than done his duty of providing an adequate pace for a crack at WR. So why not have a go at it for oneself.

38 km men in 1:52:38. The front 2 are now venturing close to the 2:05 barrier! This is absolutely incredible running and surely history in the making, where 2 athletes will hopefully crack the barrier together.

40 km in 1:58:36, the sub 2:05 is undoubtedly under threat, however can Tergat break his duck at the distance and win this one. Korir is running as freely as tergat and the pacemaker duties do not seem to have blunted his desire to win. They running side by side now, and Tergat must be feeling the enormous pressure as well as a case of previously visited moments.

Tergat with his loping style began to edge ahead by 1/2 a meter from Korir, however the gap was never decisive. Then tergat streched his legs and a gap appeared out of nothing as he began to breeze away, it was not that Korir was faltering it was more the case of Tergat moving away with ease, a ploy we had seen so often over the country, but had yet to witness over the marathon.

The Man in Red, was ‘pumped’ his arms were up his head was teady and victory was surely his, he was galloping 5 meters clear without the slighest of response from his compatriot. They were on the long straight home. Tergat bounded past a wheelchair athlete such was the momentum he carried and was now going clear by more than 20m. The camera aboard the motorcycle squeezed inbetween Tergat and Korir, they were claiming victory before the ceremony.

Turning a slight left towards the Brandenburg Gate and then a lesser right, the crowds watching began to respond in rapturious arm waving and applause as they witnessed the Kenyan Great going towards the making of history. And then out of nowhere Korir appeared and he was flying closing 1 meter for every step Tergat took. Korir’s cadence had increased, and then Tergat looked over his shoulder to see his foe preparing an attack. Once , twice , three times he glanced, fearing the worst. Then with a further 3 glances to his right and a final grit of his teeth he dug deep to cross the line 1 second ahead of his rival, in a new WR of 2:04:55 .. The glee and relief were evident as his arms shot to the heavens in celebration. He had come to do and had achieved, but it was oh so close to another 2nd place finish.

Tergat’s wife was the first to grasp and hug the new fastest man on the planet over the marathon distance, and the joy was evident as the buckets of emotion were released.

Korir had to be content with 2:04:56 , a WOW in its own right and Muiji the 2nd pacesetter finished in a PB 2:06:15 .. A remarkable barrier breaking men’s race.

And as for the Women : Yasuko Hashimoto breaks away from the rest to secure a 4th Japanese victory in as many years, with a time of 2:26:32 ahead of the strong finishing Emily Kimura who had run a well judged race to continue Kenya’s success in Germany’s biggest marathon.

The Mexican Andres Espinosa crosses the line in 4th place with a time of 2:08:46, to shatter the World Vet’s record which had stood behind the New Zealander John Campbell’s name at 2:11:04!

Quote : The new world record holder Paul Tergat : I`m almost lost for words, I want to thank my wife and my manager for their support and also the organisers of the Real-Berlin Marathon.

“I knew deep in my head one day I will get the world record,” the 34-year-old Tergat told reporters in Berlin. “I told all my friends my time would come, despite some of them saying I was too tall.”

Joel Jeannot of France wins the Wheelchair category ahead of Heinz Frei of Switzerland and South Africa’s Boston 2003 winner, Ernst van Dyk.

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