The BMW Berlin Marathon was two fine races in 2021. David Monti of Race Results Weekly wrote this piece yesterday on the return of the Berlin Marathon. We use it with permission as well as the photos.
PHOTO: Guye Adola wins the 2021 BMW Berlin Marathon (photo by Sebastian Wells for SCC Events), used with permission.PHOTO: Gotytom Gebreslase wins the 2021 BMW Berlin Marathon (photo by Sebastian Wells for SCC Events)
ETHIOPIANS ADOLA, GEBRESLASE WIN BMW BERLIN MARATHON
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2021 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.
(26-Sep) — Like a sparkler on the Fourth of July, the pace at today’s BMW Berlin Marathon started white-hot but ultimately fizzled. The men’s race, where expectations were high for a potential world record by Kenenisa Bekele, instead saw another Ethiopian, Guye Adola, get the win in 2:05:45, the slowest winning time in Berlin since 2009. The women’s champion was another Ethiopian, Gotytom Gebreslase, who ran a strong debut in 2:20:09, although she was on pace to run sub-2:19 at the halfway mark. Athletes had to contend with too-warm conditions, about 20C/68F with 80% humidity.
Bekele, 39, was Berlin’s headline act. He had run 2:01:41 at this race two years ago, and the event was set-up for him to challenge Eliud Kipchoge’s World Athletics record of 2:01:39 set on the same course in 2018. Behind three pacemakers –Cybrian Kotut and Alexander Mutiso of Kenya and Stephen Kissa of Uganda– the leaders bolted through 5-K in 14:22 and 10-K in 28:47, on pace for a 2:01:27 finish time. Five contenders were in the lead pack: Bekele, Adola, Kenyans Abraham Kipyatich and Philemon Kacheran, and Ethiopian Olika Adugna.
The torrid pace continued through 15-K (43:12), but soon the trouble started for Bekele. Looking repeatedly at his watch, he dropped back in the 18th kilometer while his back bib –which had broken free from one of the safety pins– flopped behind him. Bekele was 11 seconds back at 20-K and 12 seconds behind at the half-marathon point where the leaders were timed in a sizzling 1:00:48. During his world record run, Kipchoge hit halfway 18 seconds slower in 1:01:06 Among the original leaders, only Adugna had dropped back.
Mutiso was the last pacemaker left, and he had gotten so far ahead of the contenders by the 24-K mark, he had to slow down to a jog and wait for them to catch up before leading the group again. The 20 to 25-K segment was covered in 15:04, and the projected finish time increased to 2:02:41. There would be no world record today.
But the lapse in pace provided Bekele with an opportunity. By 25-K he closed the gap to just five seconds, and in the 27th kilometer he took the lead again. It was a three-man race at that point with Adola, Bekele and Kacheran all still in contention.
The pace continued to slow. From 30 to 35-K, Adola only ran 15:21, but that was fast enough to put a three-second gap on Bekele and a 16-second gap on Kacheran. Another Kenyan, Bethwel Yegon, had moved up from sixth place at halfway (he had been 86 seconds back) and was now just a step behind Kacheran. Yegon was full of running, and by 38-K he had not only passed Kacheran and Bekele but had caught Adola! Adola, who had made his marathon debut in Berlin in 2017 in 2:03:46 wearing old-style racing flats, had seen enough and decided to take control of the race. He eased away from Yegon, cruised through the Brandenburg Gate alone, and won by 29 seconds, 2:05:45 to Yegon’s 2:06:14. Bekele had to settle for third in 2:06:47. Kacheran slipped to sixth in 2:09:29.
“The big problem for me was the lack of training because of the pandemic,” Bekele said. “I just couldn’t do as well as I hoped. That does not mean my career is over.”
Adola felt confident about his chances today, but he didn’t expect it to be so warm.
“I thought before the race that I could beat Kenenisa,” Adola said. “It was so hot, my feet were burning in my shoes.”
The women’s race went from a four-athlete battle at halfway (1:09:19) between Ethiopians Gebreslase, Hiwot Gebrekidan, and Helen Tola, and Kenyan Fancy Chemutai, to a two-athlete contest by 30-K (1:38:26). Only Gebreslase and Gebrekidan remained in contention.
By 35-K, Gebreslase had a 13-second lead on Gebrekidan which grew to 31 seconds by 40-K. In her debut run at the distance, Gebreslase shot several glances behind her in the final kilometers, but she was in no danger of losing. She broke the tape in 2:20:09, more than a minute up on Gebrekidan (2:21:23). She punched the air as she broke the tape, then fell to her knees to give thanks. Tola made it an Ethiopian sweep, taking third in 2:23:05.
Both winners earned 20,000 euros in prize money, half of what the race winners received in 2019. No athletes made the minimum times for time bonuses (sub-2:03:30 for men and sub-2:19:00 for women).
The top domestic finishers were Philipp Pflieger in 16th place (2:15:01) and Rabea SchÃ¶neborn in ninth place (2:28:49). American Shalane Flanagan, 40, who plans to run all five Abbott World Marathon Majors this fall, finished 17th in 2:38:32.
“Felt good!” Flanagan told Race Results Weekly in a text message. “Fast course and good conditions!”
Today’s race, which was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic, featured 24,796 entrants.
PHOTO: Gotytom Gebreslase wins the 2021 BMW Berlin Marathon (photo by Sebastian Wells for SCC Events)