Lynette Matheka and James Magayi @PeopleSports11
Berlin has become the most favourable course to lower the marathon record. Eliud Kipchoge’s heroics which saw him set a new mark of 2:01.39 was the eighth to be lowered in the German capital and a fourth straight by a Kenyan, begging the question why Berlin.
The Berlin Marathon started out as a humble affair in 1974 with a mere 284 athletes running through the nearby woods. In 1981, it moved to the city’s streets and nowadays attracts more than 70,000 runners every year.
Yesterday, it maintained its place in the record books when Kipchoge improved on compatriot Dennis Kimetto’s mark of 2:02.57 set in 2014.
Berlin is a flat course with few corners. It starts at 38m above sea level, never gets higher than 53m or lower than 37m.
In comparison, London undulates more, twists and turns more frequently, plus runners often face a head wind when running along the River Thames past Embankment. And Boston’s finish line is so much lower than its start that it is ineligible for world record attempts.
“Competitors in Berlin run on asphalt and compared to concrete, this seems to be helpful. We hear from runners that they have less problems with their joints,” race director Mark Milde told BBC in 2014.
“And in late September, we have running conditions that are close to ideal. There is not much wind and the temperatures are in the range of 12C to 18C,” he added.
In fact, the average temperature for late September when the marathon is run is 15C which falls inside the 10C to 16C window that experts agree is the optimum temperature for a fast race.
The good weather and the flat course have blessed Berlin and of the last 10 word records, eight have come from the course.
Legendary Paul Tergat, who clocked 2:04:55 in 2003, was the first Kenyan to smash the world record in Berlin, knocking off American Khalid Khannouchi to launch East Africa’s domination.
Ethiopian great Haile Gabrelassie lowered Tergat’s record in 2007 then broke his won record a year later, all on the same course, before the Kenyan trio of Patrick Makau (2:03:38) in 2011, Wilson Kipsang (2:03:23) in 2013 and Kimetto (2:02:57) in 2014 set leading marks.
Kipchoge therefore became the fifth Kenyan to break the marathon record and lowered it for the 50th time since American Johnny Hayes 2:55.18 mark in 1908.