Elite Race Recap: Bekele is back
Kenenisa Bekele completed one of sport's most incredible comebacks to win the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON in 2:01:41, just two seconds outside Eliud Kipchoge's world record.
When the Kenyan recorded his 2:01:39 on the same course 12 months ago, it was thought he had pushed the mark so much lower it could take a generation to come close to it.
Yet the 37-year-old Ethiopian, who has suffered with a string of injury set-backs since winning here in 2016, rolled back the years to produce the second greatest marathon run of all time.
Bekele set a blistering pace alongside Tokyo champion Birhanu Legese and Sissay Lemma, as they clocked 61:05 for the first half, but the veteran began to struggle at the 35km mark and found himself slipping away from that pair around the 30km mark.
It appeared his race was run, and soon Legese was all alone as he dropped Lemma and looked set for his second Series XII win. The sight of Lemma starting to fade gave Bekele all the motivation he needed to grit his teeth and fight his way back into the race.
By 35km he had scorched past Lemma, but still had 13 seconds to make up on Legese. Doubts that age, injury and a seemingly comfortable looking Legese would deny Bekele were quickly wiped out.
He had blown by his compatriot before they reached the Brandenburg Gate and had just his wristwatch left to conquer.
In the end, despite a second half time of 60:36, he was agonizingly close to Kipchoge's record. But for Bekele, this was about proving that there is life in those old legs yet.
What price a head-to-head between the pair next Spring?
Ashete Bekere held off the challenge of Mare Dibaba to claim the women's crown in Berlin in a new PB of 2:20:14.
Bekere came into the contest off the back of a victory in the 2019 Rotterdam Marathon and a triumph in Valencia last December, and proved stronger than her well-known rivals to claim her first Abbott World Marathon Majors race win.
The early stanzas of the race featured all the athletes expected to be in the final shake-up, but there was a shock at 30km when defending champion Gladys Cherono pulled up in what looked to be some distress.
Cherono's withdrawal cleared the way for a new champion to be crowned, but it wasn't until 35km that Bekere and Dibaba were left all alone after Dally Chepyego yielded to the pace they were setting.
The remaining pair went stride for stride through the Brandenburg gate until the 31-year old Bekere finally found the legs to break the much smaller Dibaba.
Negotiating a cluster of male finishers as she approached the tape, Bekere crossed the line in 2:20:14 to announce herself as a contender in future Majors races to come.
*In the men's race, Kenta Murayama from Japan finished 9th place.
Wheelchair Race Recap: Schär simply the best again
Manuela Schär's dominance continued on the streets of Berlin as she chalked up win number seven of Abbott World Marathon Majors Series XII.
It's another slice of history for the Swiss athlete, who became the only competitor to win in all six Majors cities in a row when she claimed the Virgin Money London Marathon title in April.
With the series concluding back where it began with her world record in 2018, Schär has now written herself into Majors folklore.
This was classic Schär, building an early lead and never looking back. By halfway she was over two and a half minutes clear and as she crossed the line she was almost four minutes away from the rest of the field, finishing in 1:38:07.
The win rubber stamps her second consecutive series crown.
She was followed home by America's Amanda McGrory. After a year out through injury, the University of Illinois athlete was delighted with her second place, and completed her full set of AbbottWMM races to earn the coveted Six Star Medal.
Australia's Madison de Rozario came third to cement third place in the women's wheelchair leaderboard.
It was a Swiss double in Berlin as Marcel Hug pulled off a similarly dominant performance for his second win of the Series XII campaign.
The Silver Bullet was clear of his rivals after 5km and cruised to win by over three and a half minutes. It was not enough to catch series leader Daniel Romanchuk, who was not racing in Berlin, but Hug will head to Chicago to start Series XIII in good form, at least.
David Weir banished memories of a disappointing 2018 race in Berlin with second place ahead of last year's winner Brent Lakatos, who completes the top three in Series XII with the nine points gained today.
*In the men's wheelchair race, Hiroki Nishida and Ryota Yoshida finished 4th and 8th places, respectively.
AbbottWMM - 2019 Berlin Marathon Race Preview