There is a terrific weekend of road racing ahead, and four events stand out.
The real,-Berlin Marathon will be contested on Sunday and features a tantalizing match-up between history's two fastest marathon runners: Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie and Kenya's Duncan Kibet. Gebrselassie will be going for a fourth straight Berlin victory, but Kibet says he's ready to do battle with the man many call The Emperor.
"I feel honored to be able to run against Haile Gebrselassie," Kibet said during a press conference in Berlin today. "My training went very well and I think it is a very good sign that my training partner James Kwambai ran 59:09 minutes last Sunday at the Rotterdam Half-Marathon." He added: "After Rotterdam I though that I might be able to run even faster in Berlin. So this is why I decided to go for this race."
Gebrselassie, 36, has nothing to prove, but is the consummate competitor. He still thinks he can run fast. Very fast. "If everything fits together perfectly then may be even 2:02:59 would be possible," he said.
Race director Mark Milde will have to contend with warmer than normal temperatures. Weather.com predicts a high temperature of 76°F (24°C) for Sunday accompanied by bright sunshine.
In Britain, the Bupa Great North Run will be held in Newcastle on Sunday, the world's largest half-marathon and one of the fastest. The elite athlete team at Nova International, Andy Caine and Peter Riley, have recruited a field of big hitters, including two-time ING New York City Marathon champion Martin Lel of Kenya, Olympic Marathon silver medalist Jaouad Gharib of Morocco, reigning world cross country champion Gebre Gebremariam, and Irishman Martin Fagan. On the women's side, world and Olympic medalists from Ethiopia --Berhane Adere, Werknesh Kidane and Ejagayehu Dibaba-- will be challenged by reigning Boston Marathon champion Salina Kosgei of Kenya and former world cross country champion Benita Willis of Australia.
Across the Atlantic in Philadelphia, the ING Philadelphia Distance Run will also be held on Sunday. The women's race boasts a rematch between 2008 Olympic Marathon gold and silver medalists, Romania's Constantina Dita and Kenya's Catherine Ndereba, who has won the PDR six times. The men's race will see USA half-marathon record holder Ryan Hall battle compatriot Josh Rohatinsky and Rohatinsky's Canadian training partner, Simon Bairu, who will make his half-marathon debut. Kenyans Peter Omae and Samuel Ndereba are also entered.
In New England, the CVS Caremark Downtown 5-K will also take place on Sunday. The 20th edition of the race will once again see the USA men's and women's 5 km road running championships. Race director Charlie Breagy has recruited Olympians Anthony Famiglietti, Matt Tegenkamp, Amy Yoder Begley, Jonathon Riley and Bolota Asmerom (Famiglietti is the reigning men's champion). Red-hot Molly Huddle should give Yoder Begley a good run on the women's side; Huddle has already won two USA road running titles this summer.
PHOTO: Duncan Kibet with his special name bib in front of the Brandenburg Gate (photo courtesy of the real,-Berlin Marathon
NOTE: Your editor will be in Philadelphia to cover the ING Philadelphia Distance Run on Sunday --Ed.