BERLIN — Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele narrowly missed out on a world record when he outsprinted Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang to win the Berlin Marathon in the second fastest time in the history of the race on Sunday.
The triple Olympic champion weathered Kipsang’s blistering early pace before he attacked with 2km left, crossing the line in 2hr 3min 3sec, six seconds off Dennis Kimetto’s world record.
Kipsang, a former world record holder who won in Berlin three years ago, but like Bekele missed August’s Rio Olympics, could not match the Ethiopian’s pace towards the end and finished 10 seconds adrift in the race’s fourth-fastest time.
"I wanted to run a personal best," Bekele, who shaved more than two minutes off his previous fastest, said. "The time was fantastic, but I am a bit disappointed as well as I missed a few seconds in the end."
A strong early pace, with the leading runners passing the 5km mark in an eye-popping time of 14min 20sec, meant the main contenders had the world record in their sights from the start. Kipsang, who set his world record in Berlin in 2013 only to lose it to fellow Kenyan Kimetto a year later, and Bekele stuck behind the pacemakers, with Emmanuel Mutai joining them. A lightning-fast race was confirmed by the halfway mark, with the leading pack a minute inside world record pace.
It quickly became a two-horse race and after 30km, it was Bekele’s turn to drop 30m behind the leader as Kipsang staged his first attack. But the 34-year-old Ethiopian, still the world record-holder for the 5,000 and 10,000m on the track, caught Kipsang in the next 2km. Bekele then drew on his strong finish from his days on the track and pulled away as Kipsang failed to stay in touch.
"I was hoping to win it and run a personal best. I did it," said Kipsang, who was 10sec faster than his world record time of 2013. "We both ran a fantastic race together and I missed him [Bekele] by a few seconds. Next time it will be another day."
Ethiopia enjoyed a sweep of the podium in the women’s race with Aberu Kebede winning her third Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:20:45. Her compatriots followed her home with Birhane Dibaba claiming second ahead of Ruti Aga.
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