BERLIN, Germany--On a perfect day for marathoning, Kenya's Dennis Kimetto (left/photo by Paul Merca) became the first man to break 2:03 in the marathon, stopping the watches at 2:02:57 to set yet another world record on the fast and flat BMW Berlin Marathon course through the streets of the German capital Sunday morning.
With a group of pacesetters brought in by the race organizers to ensure a fast pace, the lead group clicked through kilometers of 14:42, 29:24, 44:09, and 58:35 at the 5, 10, 15, and 20 k marks, before crossing the half-marathon mark at 1:01:45, a pace that equated to 2:03:30.
When the pacers dropped out at the 30k mark, crossed in 1:27:37, the race between Kimetto, Emmanuel Mutai, Geoffrey Kamworor, and Ethiopia's Abera Kuma was on., with a 5 k of 14:10 run between 30 and 35 k (1:41:47) proving to be the decisive stretch, as Kuma was dropped, and Kamworor, the reigning world half marathon champ, was losing ground.
To get a bit of perspective on the decisive 5k stretch, Sean Hartnett, an American from Wisconsin who was riding in the lead car and who is considered by many in the sport as one of the true experts of the marathon, told paulmerca.blogspot.com afterwards that while the results will show the 30-35k stretch as the fastest, in reality, it was the 29th to the 34th kilometer as the fastest, as he had them in 14:08.
For what it's worth, 14:08 is a pretty good 5k time for a college dual meet!
In the stretch between 35 and 40k, Kimetto ran a split of 14:42, dropping Mutai and opening up a seven-second lead, and extended it to 16 seconds over the last 2+ kilometers to cross the line in 2:02:57, with Mutai running 2:03:13, also under the previous world record of 2:03:23, set on this course last year by Wilson Kipsang.
Kuma finished third in 2:05:56.
Fernando Cabada was the first American across the line, finishing in 2:11:36.
A side note: Mutai's 1:27:37 was a world record for the 30k road distance, according to organizers of the BMW Berlin Marathon.
In the women's race, Portland's Shalane Flanagan (above/photo by Paul Merca) went to the front immediately with pacers Ryan Vail and Rob Watson, set to attack the American record of 2:19:36 set by Deena Kastor at the 2006 London Marathon.
For the first 25 kilometers, Flanagan was unchallenged, as she had as much as a 22 second lead on the field at that point, crossing the mark in 1:22:36.
In that stretch between 25 and 30k, the group of three Ethiopians--Tirfi Tsegaye, Takelech Bekele, and Feyse Tadese--cut Flanagan's lead down to two seconds, eventually passing her shortly around the 31k mark. By the time Tsegaye reached 35 k, she had an 11-second lead over Tadese, while Flanagan was 20 seconds down in fourth.
Tsegaye won the race in a time of 2:20:18, with Tadese second, nine seconds back, while Flanagan made a late rally to finish third in 2:21:14, the second fastest time by an American, and a significant personal best, beating her previous PR of 2:22:02, set in Boston in April.
Afterwards, Flanagan expressed no regrets about going for the American record instead of the victory.
"I think it's all about perspective. I've dropped over four minutes from my marathon time this year, but I also found out what my limits are today. I did not run a good last 2k. The race doesn't end at 40k."
When asked if there was a specific thing that led to her problems between 30 and 35k she said, "I can't see why I fatigued. I'll look back at my training and see if there's something I need to do to change it. Maybe I can work on being a bit tougher or being faster over the last few miles. Progress is progress. Getting third at a major marathon with a PR is not a bad day."
Asked if there was a sense of panic after the Ethiopian trio made the pass, she said that it was hard to watch them go past her, but she was still close to her goal, so she didn't want to waste any energy on a counter attack or a surge.