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
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
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
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.