Favourite Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya won the Berlin marathon on Sunday, surviving a brave challenge by compatriot and marathon newcomer Dennis Kimetto but narrowly failing in his quest to set a new world record.
Mutai’s time of two hours four minutes and 15 seconds – on what is considered the fastest marathon course in the world – was more than half-a-minute off Patrick Makau’s world record of two hours three minutes 38 seconds set in the German capital last year.
Kenya swept the podium spots with another marathon debutant, Geoffrey Kipsang, finishing in third place a minute and 57 seconds behind the winner.
In the women’s race Ethiopia clinched a one-two double with pre-race favourite Aberu Kebede winning her second Berlin marathon after 2010 with a time of two hours twenty minutes and 30 seconds. Her training partner Tirfi Tsegaye was second with Ukraine’s Olena Shurhno third.
On a warm and sunny autumn morning more than a million fans lined the streets of Berlin to see race favourite Mutai make a bid for the world record after his failure to make the London Olympics.
The 30-year-old Mutai bettered the world record mark in winning the Boston marathon last year but his time of two hours three minutes and two seconds was not recognised due to the course’ nature.
On Sunday, Mutai pulled away with a group of five runners from the start including a stubborn Kimetto, running his first competitive marathon.
The duo were joined from the start by Kipsang, also making his marathon debut, and Jonathan Mayo, whose personal best of 2:04:56 set in Dubai put him firmly among the pre-race favourites.
The group’s time at the 30km mark hinted the world record was slowly slipping away with their time half a minute off Makau’s 2011 pace.
Mutai upped the tempo shortly after, pulling away from the rest but with Kimetto, who was looking for a Berlin treble after having won the half marathon and 25km races here, hanging on.
Kimetto remained a menacing presence after he survived another Mutai attempt to shake him off at the 40km mark.
But going into the final stretch and through the iconic Brandenburg Gate, Kimetto had no reserves to launch a final challenge with Mutai clinging on for victory.