2012 BMW Berlin Marathon: Quick, Quick...Quicker, by Pat Butcher, note by Larry Eder

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geoffrey_Mutai_1.jpg
Geoffrey Mutai, 2012 BMW elite men's press conference, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

So, can the fastest marathoner in the world, all conditions, get the world record on the fastest legal course in the world? 

Geoffrey Mutai, the winner of the 2011 Boston Marathon, had a rough year in 2012. His Boston dnf was all the reason Athletics Kenya needed to not pick him for the London Olympics. 

Mutai is a man on a mission. As is race director, Mark Milde, who has assembled a field that will keep the pace fast and honest, as Geoffrey Mutai attempts to enter a territory that only he and Moses Mosop have entered: sub 2:03:30 marathon territory. 

Here is how Pat Butcher saw the 2012 BMW Elite Men's Berlin Marathon conference. 
QUICK, QUICK... QUICKER?

When the fastest man in the marathon world meets the fastest course in 
the marathon world, the odds are in favour of something special. In 
Berlin that usually means a world record, of which there have been no 
fewer than seven in the past 15 years. The most recent was last year, 
by Patrick Makau of Kenya, 2.03.38 in a race during which he destroyed 
former record holder, the legendary Haile Gebrselassie.

It would hard for Sunday's 39th BMW Berlin Marathon to reproduce such 
an incident-packed race as last year, but Makau himself is in little 
doubt that compatriot Geoffrey Mutai will break his record, saying in 
an email this morning (Friday), ""I know that they are capable of 
setting the fastest time over the flat Berlin course (which would be a 
WR). We have been training together in Eldoret and they are geared up 
for the event".

The 'they' includes Mutai's training partner and marathon debutant, 
Dennis Kimetto, whose 59.14 'half' and world record 25k (71.18), both 
here in Berlin this year, promise much.

Mutai finished second here to Makau two years ago, in 2.05.10, in a 
rain-sodden race. But he had an 'annus mirabilis' the following year, 
running an extraordinary 2.03.02 to win Boston (on a course not 
accepted for WR purposes), then winning New York in another course 
record, 2.05.05.

In contrast, 2012 has been disastrous for Mutai. He had to drop out of 
this year's Boston, suffering from the hot conditions, a reversal which 
prompted the Kenyan selectors to ignore him (and Makau) for London 2012.
"I was disappointed not to finish Boston, and the selection was 
Athletics Kenya's decision," said Mutai at Friday morning's press 
conference in central Berlin, "but it's given me motivation to run well 
here".

Proof of that is that Mutai and company have requested a pace of 61.40 
for the first half. Whereby hangs a tale, of Boston. When you've run 
the fastest time in history, world record or not, the suggestion that 
it wasn't all your own work evidently rankles. Someone asked what time 
Mutai thought he might have run, had there not been a gale force breeze 
behind the pack in Boston 2011.

"The race started at a very fast pace," related Mutai. "I only realised 
how fast at halfway, and I asked myself if we could even finish running 
at that pace. I didn't feel the wind when I was running. But there were 
12 of us, running fast, there isn't a pacemaker in Boston. People 
afterwards said it was the wind, but they didn't give credit to the 
runners".

There is of course the little matter of the drop between start and 
finish, which prevents Boston being accepted for record purposes; but 
since there is a lot of up and down between, runners maintain Boston is 
just as hard as elsewhere.

The contrast, and advantage of Berlin from Mutai's perspective is, 
"because of the hills in Boston you can't go with the same speed, but 
the Berlin course is flat, so you can maintain the same speed".
Mutai had a bad cough and cold two weeks ago, but maintains he is fully 
fit and raring to go. He hesitated when asked what percentage chance he 
gave himself of breaking Makau's record, but retreated behind a circumspect, 
"I'll do my best".

Not only will he have Kimetto for company, but race director Mark Milde 
is trying to make Mutai feel as comfortable as could be possible by 
enlisting other members of his training group as pacemakers.

Should Mutai and Kimetto falter, another colleague Jonathan Maiyo 
(2.04.56 in Dubai in January) should be thereabouts to pick up the 
pieces. But despite his marvellous 2011, Mutai emphasised that he still 
has much to do.

"I've not reached where I want to be in my career," he said finally, 
"I'm still looking for that".

Whether Mutai finds it here on the streets of Berlin, and whether or 
not he breaks Makau's world record on Sunday, there will be a nice 
irony in the finishers' medal he will be handed after crossing the 
line. It bears the likeness of.... Patrick Makau.

ends

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