BERLIN: The Berlin marathon will be graced by world record-holders Haile Gebrselassie and Paula Radcliffe (pic) today with both athletes set to use the fast course to test their bids for gold at London 2012.
The course is predominantly flat as it snakes its way around the German capital and is a happy hunting ground for Gebrselassie, who set the world record of 2’3:59 here in 2008 and has won the race four times.
The Ethiopian has said time, rather than victory, is his priority as he looks to stop the clock close to his own world record which would guarantee his place in the African nation’s team for the marathon at the Olympics.
“I have to run as fast as I can, if I run 2:05 here, maybe someone will run 2:04, I have to make sure I am at least in the top three,” he said.
“The marathon medal is very special for people in Ethiopia, when you come back from an Olympics with a 10,000m gold medal, people aren’t so impressed as a marathon medal – that’s number one.”
After his knee problem forced him out of the New York marathon last November, the two-time 10,000m Olympic champion announced his retirement, only to start racing again this year following a re-think.
With Radcliffe set to join Gebrselassie on 38 years of age following her birthday in December, both are entering the twilight of their careers.
Radcliffe is in Berlin to prove her form following injuries and child-birth, while her 2005 time of 2’17:42 is the current world record.
Athletics’ governing body, the IAAF, recently changed the rules and her 2’15:25 from the 2003 London marathon is now only a ‘world best’ mark, as male pace-runners helped the Briton.
While Radcliffe is understandably disgruntled at the decision, she is also focused on proving she still has what it takes over the 42kms after recovering from a thyroid problem in July.
The mother of two has also recently suffered from back problems, tendinitis and a dog bite she suffered while getting too close to an unfriendly canine during training.
“It’s been a long time since I ran a marathon, so I have a bit of fear,” she said.
A time under the qualification mark of 2’31:00, would confirm her place at London 2012.
“I never have a time in my head before a race, it’s about how I feel on the day. I’ll see how things are after the first few kilometres. I had always wanted to tick off Berlin, it was always a race I wanted to run.”
Neither Gebrselassie nor Radcliffe will have things their own way in a competitive field.
Patrick Makau, who won last year’s race in cold, wet conditions in a time of 2’6:08, leads a strong contingent from Kenya, while Germany’s Irina Mikitenko will challenge Radcliffe.
The Kazakhstan-born German won the Berlin marathon in 2008 with a time of 2’19:19 and will have the passionate crowd behind her in the duel with the Brit. — AFP