23 September 2021, 2pm
Sun 26 September 2021
The best time to date was set three years ago when the Kenyan Gladys Cherono ran 2:18:11. Half-a-dozen women will be on the start line who have run under 2:25 and among them is the Ethiopian Hiwot Gebrekidan, the fastest women in the world this year thanks to her personal best of 2:19:35 in winning the Milan title in April.
In the light of the continung Corona pandemic the number of starters for this year has been considerably reduced. Around 25,000 runners are expected to compete on Sunday. The BMW Berlin Marathon will take place under strict hygiene rules.
Any participant on the start line must have been vaccinated, or recovered from the virus or be able to produce a negative PCR test. Over 90% of runners entered have been vaccinated. Spectators on the course will also be requested to maintain social distance and wear a mask covering nose and mouth.
“I’ve been preparing for the BMW Berlin Marathon for a long time and want to run my personal best on Sunday,” said Hiwot Gebrekidan at Thursday’s press conference in Berlin. When pressed as to what pace she would like, the 26-year-old answered: “I’d actually like to hold back in the first half. But I nevertheless plan to go through halfway in just under 69 minutes.” Such a split at halfway would put Hiwot Gebrekidan not only in contention for the course record but also the Ethiopian national record, currently held by Worknesh Degefa with her time of 2:17:41 in Dubai in 2019.
Her fellow Ethiopian Shure Demise also has a personal best in her sights. She is a highly experienced marathon runner, having run a dozen of them. “I’ve spoken with other women runners and know what a fast course is Berlin. I have high expectations for myself and want to break my personal record,” said Shure Demise, whose best currently stands at 2:20:59 and could well go under 2:20 for the first time.
“2:20 remains a breakthrough target for women in the marathon,” said the race director Mark Milde, adding in response to Hiwot Gebrekidan’s announcement of going for a super-fast time at halfway: “We’ll have to wait and see what times are actually run. But a pace like that would certainly suit us. And a course record would be great.”
A woman who has been a late addition to the elite field in Berlin but is capable of a surprise is Fancy Chemutai. The Kenyan has a best of 2:24:27 and will be running only her second marathon. If she were able to convert her enormous potential to good effect in the classic distance she may well be in contention for the win. Her half marathon best of 64:52 makes her the seventh fastest woman at the distance of all time. No other woman on the Berlin start list has such a fast half marathon performance.
Rabea Schöneborn from the local club LG Nord Berlin will be running a marathon for the first time in her home town. The 27-year-old improved her best to 2:27:03 in April in her second race at the distance, missing selection for the Olympics by just nine seconds. This inadvertently created the opportunity of turning that preparation to potentially good effect at the BMW Berlin Marathon. “Berlin is definitely a highlight, I’m really looking forward to Sunday. Up to now I’ve only had the experience of elite marathons but now I can see and feel what’s it like to be part of a big city marathon. Having spectators will definitely give me a lift,” said Rabea Schöneborn.
The Berlin athlete hopes to take advantage of the fast course and what looks likely to be excellent weather conditions to improve her best time. “I always try to hold back a little so I can run the second half faster. That’s also the plan on Sunday,” explained Rabea Schöneborn. Nevertheless, she is still looking at a fast halfway split: “Something between 73:10 and 73:20 is the plan.”