BERLIN -- With current world record holder Patrick Makau looking on, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang lowered Makau’s marathon record at the BMW Berlin Marathon on Sept. 29, clocking clocking 2:03:23 to best the previous record by 15 seconds.
It marks the sixth time the men’s world record has fallen on Berlin’s flat course, beginning with Brazil’s Ronaldo Da Costa running 2:06:05 in 1998. Kipsang became the third Kenyan man in history to hold the mark, following Makau and Paul Tergat.
“This is a dream come true,” Kipsang told race organizers.
Kipsang, 31, was supposed to battle Makau in the race, but Makau was forced to withdraw with a knee injury. Instead, Kipsang got a spirited race from two other Kenyans, two-time Olympic medalist Eliud Kipchoge and 2012 Kenyan 5000m champion Geoffrey Kipsang. With the help of pacemakers Edwin Kiptoo and Philemon Rono, the trio were through the halfway mark together in 1:01:32, or 12 seconds faster than Makau’s split in 2011.
But from halfway to 30-K the pace slackened and the record appeared to be in jeopardy. At that point (1:28:01), the group was 23 seconds off of Makau’s pace.
But Wilson Kipsang rallied, running 14:35 from 30 to 35K, then 14:36 from 35 to 40K. That pace allowed him to first drop Geoffrey Kipsang, then Kipchoge, who was about 20 meters behind by 35K. With 2195 meters left, Wilson Kipsang was three second ahead of Makau’s 2011 schedule and gaining momentum. He accelerated in the final meters to get the record, becoming the only man in history to run under 2:04 twice.
“Ten years ago, I watched Paul Tergat break the world record in Berlin, and now I have achieved the dream,” Kipsang said. "I felt strong, so I attacked at 35K, because the pace had become a little too slow.”
Sadly, Kipsang’s finish on a sunny and crisp day in the German capital was marred by a man who emerged from the side of the course inside of the final ten meters, and jogged through the tape ahead of Kipsang. The man wore a yellow shirt promoting a prostitution service and wore bib number F7527.
Behind the winner, Kipchoge ran a personal best 2:04:05 in only his second marathon, the fifth-fastest mark ever on a record-quality course. Geoffrey Kipsang was third in 2:06:26.
“Congratulations to Wilson Kipsang, new world marathon record in Berlin 2:03:23,” tweeted women’s world record holder Paula Radcliffe. ”Plan it, execute it, enjoy it.”
Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat won the women’s contest in 2:21:13 -– her second win at Berlin -– ahead of compatriot and 2011 World Championships bronze medalist Sharon Cherop (2:22:28). Like Wilson Kipsang, Kiplagat is also from Iten in the Great Rift Valley. Germany’s Irina Mikitenko, who won Berlin in 2008, set a new world masters (40+) record of 2:24:54 in third place.
“I felt strong in the first half of the race, but then I started getting problems with my right foot, I had a blister which forced me to slow down,” Kiplagat said in a statement provided by race organizers. ”I found the weather conditions harder than two years ago here, but I’m still very happy.”
American Olympian Desiree Davila completed her first marathon in 20 months, finishing fifth in 2:29:15.
“Proud of @des_davila in her first marathon back,” tweeted Davila’s coaches Kevin and Keith Hanson. ”The first step is always the most difficult and she has handled it with dignity. 2:29:15″
The BMW Berlin Marathon is part of the World Marathon Majors (WMM) series. Like all WMM event winners, Kipsang earned 25 points and is now second in the 2012/2013 series standings, four points behind Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede.
It is possible Kipsang could win the $500,000 season-ending jackpot, but that seems unlikely because he would have to come back from Berlin in time to run either the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 13, or the ING New York City Marathon on November 4.