Previews22 Sep 2023

Kipchoge targets title No.5, Assefa seeks another win in Berlin


Eliud Kipchoge wins the 2022 Berlin Marathon in a world record (© SCC EVENTS/PHOTORUN)

Eliud Kipchoge and Tigst Assefa return to defend their BMW Berlin Marathon titles, with Kipchoge on the hunt for a record fifth men’s race win at the World Athletics Elite Platinum Label road race on Sunday (24).

With athletes seeking fast times and leading performances as they look to make a mark ahead of next year’s Olympic Games in Paris, the pair face formidable fields on the streets of the German capital.

Kenya’s Kipchoge clocked 2:01:09 to improve his own world record by half a minute when winning in Berlin last year. That was his fourth victory – matching the feat achieved by Haile Gebrselassie – and now Kipchoge has the chance to go one better.

“Berlin for me is like home,” said two-time Olympic champion Kipchoge, who claimed his previous Berlin Marathon wins in 2015, 2017 and 2018, the latter in a then world record of 2:01:39. “Looking at the Olympic Games in Paris next year, I considered which races would be the best preparation for me and Berlin was the best option.”

A year ago, his pace for much of the early stages of the race suggested he might even break two hours. “But that was 2022, it’s a different year now and a different race,” said the 38-year-old. “I’m nervous, but that shows I’m ready. I’ll try to run a good time.”

Of the 18 competitive marathons he has raced, Kipchoge has only lost on three occasions – on his Berlin Marathon debut in 2013, in London in 2020, and in Boston in April. Completing the undulating Boston course in 2:09:23, Kipchoge finished his most recent race in sixth place, but the Kenyan remains the man to beat in Berlin.

There are a number of athletes who will want to challenge him, however.

Kipchoge’s compatriot Amos Kipruto has the second fastest PB among the entries and he hopes to go even faster on Sunday.

The 2019 world bronze medallist, who won last year’s London Marathon, clocked 2:03:13 when finishing second to Kipchoge in last year’s Tokyo Marathon.

The pair have clashed on two other occasions in the marathon: once in Berlin, where Kipruto finished second in 2:06:23 behind Kipchoge’s world record run in 2018, and once at the Olympic Games in Japan, where Kipchoge won and Kipruto did not finish.

This time they will face 10 other men with sub-2:06 PBs: Kenya’s Jonathan Maiyo, Eliud Kiptanui, Ronald Korir, Philemon Kiplimo, Enock Onchari and Mark Korir, and Ethiopia’s Tadu Abate, Andualem Shiferaw and Haftu Teklu, plus Eritrea’s Ghirmay Ghebreslassie.

Like Kipchoge, Ghebreslassie also raced in Boston but he did not finish. The 2015 world champion, who finished fourth at the Olympics the following year, ran his PB of 2:05:34 last year – a mark that put him third in the Seville Marathon.

Mark Korir and Abate respectively finished second and third behind Kipchoge in Berlin last year and also return.

Ronald Korir raced three marathons last year, achieving his best performance in the last of those. In Valencia in December he clocked his PB of 2:05:37.

In the same race, Kiplimo ran 2:05:44 in what was only his second career marathon and first outside of Kenya. He now races the distance for the third time, as part of a field that also features Onchari, who ran 2:05:44 in Seville in February.

Leading the domestic challenge is Amanal Petros, who hopes to break his own German record of 2:06:07.

“I’ve trained in Kenya for almost four months, concentrating entirely on Berlin,” he said. “Going through halfway in around 62 minutes is feasible, but we can adjust the pace at any time.” 

The field also features Swiss record-holder Tadesse Abraham, who ran 2:06:38 last year in Zurich.

Just two seconds behind him on PB is Ethiopia’s Andamlak Belihu, who finished fourth in Berlin last year thanks to that lifetime best.

His compatriot Tadese Takele, the 2021 world U20 3000m steeplechase silver medallist, makes his marathon debut. He clocked 59:41 on his half marathon debut in Herzogenaurach last year.

Assefa headlines the women’s race after improving the women's course record by more than two minutes last year with her winning time of 2:15:37, a mark that places her fifth on the world all-time list.

She won by almost two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Rosemary Wanjiru and Tigist Abayechew, and Ethiopia’s Abayechew also returns to a race where she set her 2:18:03 PB.

“I’m delighted to be running again in Berlin,” said Assefa. “Last year’s race proved an unexpected success for me. I think I can run even faster on Sunday. A further improvement would be a success.”

In response to the question of whether a new course record would mean setting her sights on the world record of 2:14:04, she added: “Much can happen so I cannot say at the moment what would be the halfway split. I want to improve my time, but I am not thinking about the world record.”

Assefa and Abayechew will race against another five women with sub-2:20 PBs and a further five who have dipped under 2:22.

Joining Assefa with a PB under 2:18 is Kenya’s Sheila Chepkirui. The Commonwealth Games 10,000m bronze medallist finished fourth in the London Marathon in April in 2:18:51 and ran her PB of 2:17:29 in Valencia in December. While this is her first time at the Berlin Marathon, she does have experience of racing in the city as she won the Berlin Half Marathon in 2022 in a course record of 1:05:02.

Ethiopia’s Workenesh Edesa finished fourth last year in a PB of 2:18:51, while her compatriots Hiwot Gebrekidan and Zeineba Yimer, plus Japan’s Hitomi Niiya, are the other athletes in the field who have dipped under 2:20 in their careers so far.

Etagegne Woldu ran 2:20:03 in Valencia in December and is joined by her compatriots Gutemi Imana, Dera Dida and Yoshi Chekole, plus Romania’s Delvine Meringor.

The field also features Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi, the 2015 world 5000m silver medallist who set a world 5km record of 14:29 in 2021 and is contesting her third marathon.

Elite fields

Tigst Assefa (ETH) 2:15:37
Sheila Chepkirui (KEN) 2:17:29
Tigist Abayechew (ETH) 2:18:03
Workenesh Edesa (ETH) 2:18:51
Hiwot Gebrekidan (ETH) 2:19:10
Hitomi Niiya (JPN) 2:19:24
Zeineba Yimer (ETH) 2:19:28
Etagegne Woldu (ETH) 2:20:03
Gutemi Imana (ETH) 2:20:11
Delvine Meringor (ROU) 2:20:49
Yoshi Chekole (ETH) 2:21:17
Dera Dida (ETH) 2:21:11
Fikrte Wereta (ETH) 2:22:50
Charlotte Purdue (GBR) 2:23:26
Margaret Muriuki (KEN) 2:23:52
Senbere Teferi (ETH) 2:24:11
Malindi Elmore (CAN) 2:24:50
Deborah Schoneborn (GER) 2:25:52
Fabienne Schlumpf (SUI) 2:26:14
Annie Frisbie (USA) 2:26:18
Domenika Mayer (GER) 2:26:50
Rabea Schoneborn (GER) 2:27:03
Kristina Hendel (GER) 2:27:29
Laura Hottenrott (GER) 2:28:02
Yevheniya Prokofyeva (UKR) 2:28:06
Ursula Sanchez (MEX) 2:29:11
Angie Orjuela (COL) 2:29:12
Tabea Themann (GER) 2:31:54
Jana Soethout (GER) 2:34:28
Melina Wolf (GER) Debut

Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:01:09  
Amos Kipruto (KEN) 2:03:13
Jonathan Maiyo (KEN) 2:04:56
Eliud Kiptanui (KEN) 2:05:21
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (ERI) 2:05:34
Ronald Korir (KEN) 2:05:37
Tadu Abate (ETH) 2:05:38
Philemon Kiplimo (KEN) 2:05:44
Enock Onchari (KEN) 2:05:47
Mark Korir (KEN) 2:05:49
Andualem Shiferaw (ETH) 2:05:52
Haftu Teklu (ETH) 2:05:53
Amanal Petros (GER) 2:06:27
Josphat Boit (KEN) 2:06:34
Tadesse Abraham (SUI) 2:06:38
Andamlak Belihu (ETH) 2:06:40
Okubay Tsegay (ERI) 2:06:46
Abel Kipchumba (KEN) 2:06:49
Yusuke Ogura (JPN) 2:06:51
Denis Chirchir (KEN) 2:07:17
Justus Kangogo (KEN) 2:07:40
Titus Kipkosgei (KEN) 2:07:46
Godadaw Belachew (ISR) 2:07:54
Dominic Nyairo (KEN) 2:08:13
John Hakizimana (RWA) 2:08:18
Guojian Dong (CHN) 2:08:28
Liam Adams (AUS) 2:08:39
Scott Fauble (USA) 2:08:52
Mehdi Frere (FRA) 2:08:55
Byambajav Tseveenravdan (MGL) 2:09:03
Jared Ward (USA) 2:09:25
Yimer Getahun (ISR) 2:09:27
Michael Somers (BEL) 2:09:31
Stephen Scullion (IRL) 2:09:49
Jianhua Peng (CHN) 2:09:57
Eulalio Munoz (ARG) 2:09:59
Jacob Riley (USA) 2:10:02
Tiidrek Nurme (EST) 2:10:02
Bohdan-Ivan Horodyskyi (UKR) 2:10:14
Bart van Nunen (NED) 2:10:16 33
Thomas De Bock (BEL) 2:10:17
Hendrik Pfeiffer (GER) 2:10:18
Yared Shegumo (POL) 2:10:34
Lemawork Ketema (AUT) 2:10:44
Samuel Fitwi (GER) 2:12:14
Konstantin Wedel (GER) 2:13:02
Vincent Kipkemoi Ngetich (KEN) Debut
Tadese Takele (ETH) Debut

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