‘FLAT AND FORGIVING’, The BMW Berlin Marathon, by Pat Butcher
You can always trust an American to come up with a good slogan, especially where Berlin is concerned. Everyone recalls JFK, in the lee of the Wall at the height of the Cold War, roaring, ‘Ich bin Ein Berliner,’ in support of the beleaguered and blockaded citizens.
Over two decades after the Fall, Desiree Davila provided a succinct appraisal why the BMW Berlin Marathon has contributed so much – eight world records – towards the revival of the now German capital, making it one of the most ‘happening’ cities in Europe.
“Flat and Forgiving,” said Davila, when asked why she had chosen the Berlin course to make her comeback after a year of injury problems. ‘This is a flyer of a course,” added the American, “it lends itself to fast times. And I want to run fast. I’d run any of the (Marathon) Majors in a heartbeat, but if I were to run Chicago, I know all the checkpoints, and if you’re not on the time you expect, you can get disheartened; and New York is too hilly.
“But this (Berlin) is flat and forgiving, it’s a good course for coming off an injury; and I’ve got great memories of 2009 here (she was 11th in the IAAF World Champs). I’ll start conservatively, and hope to come through at the end. I’m hoping for top five, maybe if some of the others misjudge the pace, top three would be good”.
The other reason Davila, 30, is being so conservative in her estimate is that she is up against one of the most competitive fields here in recent years. Even with the inevitable drop-outs through injury, there are still former winners, Florence Kiplagat and Irina Mikitenko, and Boston winner 2012. and Daegu bronze medallist, Sharon Cherop to contend with.
Kiplagat, 26, winner here two years ago in her personal best of 2.19.44 is race favourite. But, like most Kenyans was unwilling at today’s (Thursday) press conference to predict a major revolution in her best time. “I think I can run in the 2.19s, but not a minute faster than my best. I know I’m in good shape, but so is everyone else”.
Her Kenyan colleague, Cherop, 29, was a little more prepared to venture a possible, if not probable improvement. “It’s my first time here, and I gather it’s a really fast course. I’ve run 2.22 three times, and I think I’m going to improve that here. I’m going to run my fastest”.
Mikitenko on the other hand, tacitly admits she is hardly like to win, and has modified her objectives. The Kazakh born German record holder, with 2.19.19 here in 2008, said, “Over 40, you have to set new goals, so I’m targeting the Masters’ record (Ludmilla Petrova’s 2.25.43 in New York 2008). It’s feasible, but it’s no good talking about it. You have to do it. There are pros and cons about being five years older than my best. With age you still have endurance, but you have to work harder to maintain your speed. But it is a marathon after all. It’s not a sprint. It feels good running in Berlin again, knowing I set the German record here. And if I’m going to set the masters’ record, it’s going to be here”.
Interested observers, invited back for the 40th anniversary of the Berlin Marathon, will be former women’s world record holders, Naoko Takahashi of Japan, 2.19.46 (first women’s sub 2.20) in 2001; and Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, 2.20.43 in 1999.