The BMW Berlin Marathon was one of the finest marathons that I have ever witnessed, and this writer watched it on German TV and via global social media. The battle between Kipsang and Bekele was one of the finest duels ever in long distance running.
Here are the five observations, in no real order, that I have on the Berlin Marathon.
1. Kenenisa Bekele has given the marathon the respect the distance deserves
I was lucky to visit Paris when Kenenisa Bekele ran Paris in 2014 and made his marathon debut. He nearly crashed and burned, but held it together there. His Chicago marathon was not good, and afterwards, Kenenisa admitted that he was not respecting the distance. His injuries for the next 18 months included DNFs. And then, there was London in April 2016. Off 80 percent fitness, Kenenisa ran a gutty 2:06 and finished third. His performance in Berlin was paradigm changing. Bekele focused his frustration after the selectors for Ethiopia did not pick him for Rio. In May in Manchester, Bekele told RunBlogRun, that "there were other races besides Rio,". Bekele obviously showed his fitness, but most importantly, his racing savvy. Bekele did not charge back at Kipsang, but slowly moved back up to Kipsang. His move over the last 2.2 kilometers was dominating. The man who owns the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters World records, provided he can stay healthy, has a legitimate shot at the WR for the marathon.
2. Wilson Kipsang is back, after his brilliant PB in Berlin
Wilson Kipsang dominated the London marathon. In 2014, when David Bedford brought Mo Farah into the marathon world, Wilson Kipsang was asked by me, when he knew he would defeat Mo Farah in the marathon. Wilson looked me straight in the face, with a quiet confidence, and noted, " At the start." Wilson went on to explain that Mo Farah did not compete with the leaders, and his use of a pace maker put him out of contention.
Wilson went on to set a WR of 2:03:23 in 2013, then, Dennis Kimetto broke the WR with a 2:02:57. Wilson had two years of travails, including DNF at World Champs. There were times when only Wilson Kipsang and his close friends believed he could come back. Well, in Berlin yesterday, Wilson Kipsang showed his racing confidence and fitness is back and he is racing well. A PB of 2:03:13 and 41 kilometers of dueling with Kenenisa Bekele?
Watch Wilson Kipsang go for the WR once again.
3. Berlin 2016 showed how exciting marathons on TV can be!
The Berlin Marathon came down, at 34 kilometers to a duel between Wilson Kipsang and Kenenisa Bekele. Kipsang surged away twice from Bekele, and Bekele slowly caught back up with Mr. Kipsang. The battle over the next 8 kilometers was pressure filled. Could Kipsang break the speedster Bekele? Could Bekele reverse his marathon disrespect and use his skills to dominate the marathon? Those two questions and others were answered in this fine race.
Birhane Dibaba, Aberu Kebede, Ruti Aga, Berlin Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net
4. World Marathon Majors does not know how to market the sport
The World Marathon Majors is inconsistent in how they approach the coverage of the sport. With media organizations scrapping much of their sports coverage, the few global groups who cover the sport do so on their own dime. If WMM wants more coverage, do what other sports do-promote the sport on sport friendly media. Many in US did not know where they could watch Berlin Marathon. Some asked why Bein Sports was not covering Berlin. Some watched off the NBC app and said good things. How about promoting coverage more than a day before events? In this world, WMM has so much to learn. Sponsors like Abbott could get so much more benefit with more people respecting their coverage and support as well the positive support of Abbott Diabetes initiatives.
5. Dare we say, who will Kenenisa Bekele battle next? Rivalries count!
Eliud Kipchoge has dominated the marathon distance over the past two years. His win in Rio was dominating and showed, after his two London wins, and his Berlin win in 2015, that Eliud Kipchoge is the man. Now, with Kenenisa Bekele, and his win in Berlin 2016, we have what the sport truly needs-a global rivalry!
I am sure more will be said over the next days, months, but we are at an exciting time in marathoning, and great races mean more viewers, more sponsors and more visibility, but only if the sport is promoted and covered in sports media.