Berlin Marathon Report: Geta Wami, Sonia O'Sullivan!, by Pat Butcher


Pat Butcher is one of the best and most prolific writers in our sport. A keen observer of the sport, Pat is ensconsed in the media center at the Berlin Marathon, updating us about happenings at this year's Berlin Marathon. Geta Wami, last year's winner is running Berlin and contemplating New York as well! Sonia O'Sullivan is a last minute entrant and Haile Gebreselassie is keen on setting the world record. With cool conditions and rain expected, it might be the race to do it..In the following report,
Pat gives us a preview of the upcoming women's race:


by Pat Butcher

BERLIN -- Most performers in elite sport will say that they would compete even if they weren’t paid. On the other hand, while rewards can often seem obscene, eg the $200,000+ per week that many English Premier League footballers earn nowadays, or three times the average YEARLY wage in the UK, few would deny them that opportunity to earn those sums, if that’s the going rate. But, what to make of those athletes who chase the money to the detriment of their career achievements?

Speaking of which, half a million dollars is the sum that Gete Wami has in her sights, the prize for winning the first edition of the World Marathon Majors series. But to ensure the victory, and the prize, Wami has to run in both the real_Berlin Marathon this Sunday, and the New York Marathon in five weeks’ time. And she would have to win both, in order to ensure displacing points leader, Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia, who also runs New York. That is a tall order, even for an Ethiopian distance runner, despite Wami’s considerable kudos as a former Olympic 10,000m and world cross country champion.

In Berlin yesterday, Wami and her husband and coach, Getaneh Tessema were both playing down the dual challenge. “I can only start to think of New York when I finish the race here in Berlin on Sunday,” said the 32-year-old defending champion. “Whether I run New York will depend on what happens here.”

“It’s not a 5000 or a 10,000 meters,” said her husband, referring to his wife’s former specialities on the track, “It’s 42 kilometres. But if everything works out here, we’ll go to New York”.

Wami won last year’s Berlin race in a national record of 2:21:34, but that has since been lowered by Berhane Adere, to 2:20:42. Wami was equally cautious about retrieving her record. “It depends on so many things, the weather, the competition. You can never predict. But I’m confident, I know I’m in good form, so we’ll see.

The weather prediction is for 16C (61F), with a strong chance of rain. If that’s not accompanied by the winds of last year, which will have slowed her (and her celebrated colleague Haile Gebrselassie, who also defends his title here), then those are close to optimum conditions for marathon running. On the other hand, the competition is not so hot. Naoko Sakamoto of Japan has run 2:21:51, but has not raced the distance since finishing seventh in the Olympic marathon in 2004. She took a year off afterwards, and has been fighting injuries since her comeback. She says she is shooting for a first half on 2.25 pace, followed by, hopefully a negative split.

Other leading women are Irinia Timofeva of Russia, who ran 2:25:29 back in 2001, and debutant, Irina Mikitenko of Germany, who says she will be happy if she breaks 2:30.

Sonia O’Sullivan of Ireland is a surprise late entrant, and her personal pacemaker is even more of a surprise. It is Australian Craig Mottram, multi-national record holder and former world 5000m bronze medallist.

O’Sullivan, 37, announced her retirement earlier this season after, arguably the best career in Irish athletics history. She won her first major title, with the World Championships 5000m in Gothenburg 1995. Three years later, she won both world cross titles in Marrakech, and an Olympic silver in Sydney 2000. Her marathon best came in London 2005, when she clocked 2:29:01. O’Sullivan now has dual nationality, following marriage to her Australian coach, Nic Bideau, who also coaches Mottram. The Aussie runner is competing on Saturday in the 3000m at the Great North Run in Newcastle, then flies to Berlin to pace training partner, O’Sullivan through the first 25k of her marathon on Sunday morning.


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