Friday, September 26, 2014

Shalane Flanagan's going for the American record in Berlin Sunday...

Runners nearing the finish of the BMW Berlin Marathon
(photo courtesy Berlin Marathon/PhotoRun) will head to Berlin for Sunday's running of the BMW Berlin Marathon, one of the six races (Tokyo, Virgin Money London, BAA Boston, Bank of America Chicago, and TCS New York) that comprise the World Marathon Majors circuit.

Sunday's race through the streets of Berlin is expected to attract 40000 runners and about a million spectators.  Runners will pass many of the city's iconic sights, including the Victory Column (Siegessäule) and the Brandenburg Gate, which is near the finish line.

From an American perspective, all eyes will be on Portland's Shalane Flanagan (left/photo by Paul Merca) from the Bowerman Track Club, as she's elected to pass on a bigger payday and shoot for Deena Kastor's American record of 2:19:36 in Berlin, which is perhaps one of the world's fastest marathon courses (eight world records have been set in Berlin over the last 15 years).

She'll have some help in her quest for Kastor's American record set in London in 2006, as Flanagan will be paced by Portland native Ryan Vail, who is prepping for the TCS New York City Marathon, and Canada's Rob Watson, who is training for the Toronto Marathon.

Flanagan, who set a personal best of 2:22:02 in Boston, which is a somewhat slower course than Berlin, will have to contend with Ethiopians Feyse Tadese, the winner of April's Paris Marathon in 2:21:06, and Tirfi Tsegaye, who was second in Berlin last year in 2:21:19.

The North Carolina alum and 2008 Olympic 10000m bronze medalist is focused on stringing together 26 consecutive miles of 5:19 to get Kastor's American record, or to use the analogy of longtime track & field analyst Larry Rawson, running 106 straight laps of 79.7 on your local track.

“Either you’re trying to win the marathon or you’re trying to run the record," Flanagan said to Runner's World's Peter Gambaccini. “If a byproduct of the record is a win, that would be fabulous. But I’m going to do everything I can to get the record. This is purely about about seeing how fast I can run over that distance. I think if I start to try and win, that could compromise the running.”

To get ready for Berlin, she skipped the USA championships in Sacramento, where she was the defending champion in the 10000, opting to train at altitude in Park City, Utah, and Flagstaff, Arizona.

Courtesy of the BMW Berlin Marathon, here's an interview with Shalane, conducted at Thursday's press conference:

The men's race features Kenya's Dennis Kimetto, who won last year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2:03:45, along with countrymen Emmanuel Mutai (2:03:52), the 2011 London Marathon winner who chased Kimetto in Chicago, falling seven seconds short; Levy Matebo (2:05:16); Eliud Kiptanui (2:05:39); and Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede, the two-time London winner and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist.  Kenya's 21 year old Geoffrey Kamworor (aka Geoffrey Kipsang), the reigning IAAF world half-marathon champ, could also be in the mix.

According to's preview of the men's race, veteran road racer Fernando Cabada (2:11:53) is the lone American in the elite men's field.

Kenya's Wilson Kipsang set the world record of 2:03:23 on the Berlin course last year, and Kimetto has said he wants to go for the record, so the race has hired pacers to run world record pace.

Both Kimetto and Mutai expressed confidence that if the weather holds up (projected as sunny in the mid 60s) and the pace setters do their job, that they have a legitimate shot at 2:03:23.  Kimetto is aiming to run around 61:30 to 61:40 for the half marathon to put him in a position to get the course and world record.

If you're feeling adventurous on a Saturday night here on the West Coast, will stream the race live starting at 11:30pm (the race starts at 8:45 am local time in Berlin). will live blog/tweet (follow @paulmerca70601 on Twitter, but if you are a regular reader, you know that already!) as it happens from Berlin!

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