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Posted: September 29, 2019:  

Athletics: Kenenisa Bekele misses world record by two seconds in sensational comeback win at Berlin Marathon

Kenenisa Bekele made a sensational return to his international best with victory at the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, missing the world record by just two seconds. For good measure, the 37-year-old Ethiopian set a national record and the fastest time in the world this year. Only his great Kenyan rival Eliud Kipchoge, who ran 2:01:39 here in Berlin last year, ranks above him in the world all-time list. Bekele knows all too well what it is like to miss the world record by a narrow margin.

1. Kenenisa Bekele the Winner of the 46. BMW BERLIN-MARATHON - photo credit: SCC EVENTS/Norbert Wilhelmi

In 2016 he won in 2:03:03 which was just six seconds outside the then world record. There are also historical precedents for such narrow misses in marathon history: in 1985 the Welshman Steve Jones ran within one second of the world record in Chicago. Behind Kenenisa Bekele his fellow Ethiopian Birhanu Legese finished second in 2:02:48 to become the third fastest marathoner in history. Third place went to Sisay Lemma, running a personal best of 2:03:36 to complete the Ethiopian clean sweep. The best German runner was Jens Nerkamp who ran 2:14:54 to finish 37th. In good weather conditions Ashete Bekere contributed her share to the Ethiopian celebrations with victory in her best time of 2:20:14, the fifth fastest women’s time of the year. Last year’s winner Gladys Cherono of Kenya dropped out at around 30km while Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia finished second in 2:20:21. Sally Chepyego, a teammate of world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, took third place in 2:21:06.

Melat Kejeta, Ethiopian-born but since March a German citizen, made a scintillating marathon debut to finish sixth in 2:23:57 and become the second fastest German woman ever in the marathon. For the first time, the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON was the final race in the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM) series. Eliud Kipchoge took the overall title, having won in Berlin last year and London this spring while Brigid Kosgei won the women’s title, thanks to her victories in Chicago and London. A record total of 46,983 runners from 150 countries entered the 46th edition of the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON.

The Men’s Race

The BMW BERLIN-MARTHON has a habit of producing spectacular men’s races and this was yet another of the highest quality. No-one would have thought beforehand that Eliud Kipchoge’s world record would come under threat. But that was what happened. After going through halfway in 61:05 a thrilling contest developed between three Ethiopians in the second half: Kenenisa Bekele, Birhanu Legese and Sisay Lemma. Shortly after 30km Bekele dropped off the pace and a few kilometres later Legese broke away from Lemma. But then Bekele recovered although he was around 100 metres adrift. First he overtook Lemma then between 37 and 38 kilometres he went past the leader Legese. Kenenisa Bekele ran so fast in this part of the race that breaking the world record came within reach. Ultimately he missed it for the second time in his career by mere seconds. “I knew that I was in top form although my preparation was shorter than I would have hoped. I know I can run faster,” said Kenenisa Bekele, who has three Olympic gold medals on the track in the long distances and is still world record holder for 5 and 10,000m. He added: “I have shown that my career is far from over.” Birhanu Legese in second place was far from disappointed at missing the victory: “I am very happy with my performance and am also very happy for Kenenisa – he is a great runner.” The best European was the Austrian Peter Herzog who finished 12th with a personal best of 2:10:57, taking him well inside the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11:30.

The Women’s Race

It wasn’t going to be the day for the favourite: Gladys Cherono, who broke the course record last year with 2:18:11, lost contact with the leading group before 20km and dropped out around 30km. While the race wasn’t as fast as expected, the lead was shared for a long time by the Ethiopians Mare Dibaba, Ashete Bekere and Helen Tola as well as the Kenyan Sally Chepyego. The last five kilometres turned into a duel between Ashete Bekere and the Olympic bronze medallist Mare Dibaba. The 31-year-old Bekere proved the stronger and won in a personal best of 2:20:14. “I believe that I can run under 2:20 on this course,” said Bekere who has now won three marathons in succession after Valencia in 2018 and Rotterdam in April this year. By far the best performance by a German woman came from Melat Kejeta. She was bold enough to run in the leading group in the first part of the race and was then able to continue with a 2:22 pace. She only dropped off that pace in the last seven kilometres when she slowed appreciably yet still achieved the fastest marathon debut ever by a German woman. In the all-time list for German women marathoners she moved into second place behind Irina Mikitenko (2:19:19). Uta Pippig won the Boston title in 1994 with 2:21:45 but this time is not valid for record purposes since the Boston course does not comply with the required regulations. Kejeta should now be confident of Olympic Marathon selection for Tokyo next year. In contrast, Anna Hahner had a disappointing run. Now running for the SCC EVENTS PRO TEAM, she finished in 2:36:34 for 23rd place.

Results Men:
1. Kenensia Bekele ETH 2:01:41 
2. Birhanu Legese ETH 2:02:48
3. Sisay Lemma ETH 2:03:36
4. Jonathan Korir KEN 2:06:45
5. Felix Kandie KEN 2:08:07
6. Yohanes Gebregergisch ERI 2:08:26
7. Guojian Dong CHN 2:08:28
8. Bethwel Yegon KEN 2:08:35
9. Kenta Murayama JPN 2:08:56
10. Abel Kipchumba KEN 2:09:39
Results Women:
1. Ashete Bekere  ETH 2:20:14
2. Mare Dibaba  ETH 2:20:21
3. Sally Chepyego KEN 2:21:06
4. Helen Tola ETH 2:21:36
5. Sara Hall USA 2:22:16
6. Melat Kejeta  GER 2:23:57
7. Sally Kipyego USA 2:25:10
8. Haftamnesh Tesfay ETH 2:26:50
9. Martina Strähl  SUI 2:31:24
10. Nina Lauwaert BEL 2:31:25

A record number of 46,983 runners from 150 countries entered the 46th BMW BERLIN-MARATHON

One in a million

Günter Halla was the very first finisher of the BERLIN-MARATHON on October 13, 1974. Ali Crandall from Canada (Toronto) was the millionth finisher with a time of 3:55:16 hours at the 46th BMW BERLIN MARATHON on September 29, 2019 at 14:07:33. In between them there were 999,998 lucky medal winners (109,660 skaters, 4,811 wheelchair athletes & hand bikers, and 885,527 runners), each with their own dramatic or not so dramatic stories. The total distance covered is about 42 million kilometres, which is about 55 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon and back. In the early years, the finish was recorded manually by block and pencil. At the premiere of the BERLIN-MARATHON at Mommsen Stadium with its 244 finishers, this was easily possible. This year, with 46,983 participants, there were more runners than ever before at the start on the Straße des 17. Juni.

Tracking the one millionth runner among the total finishers was only possible through many calculations in advance as well by using the most modern equipment on site. But not only the technology has changed over the course of the event's history. Originally in the district of Berlin-Charlottenburg, the start-finish area moved to its present location between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column. This was only possible due to the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, when Berlin became a free city again. The history of the BERLIN MARATHON is part of Berlin’s history and the one millionth finisher now plays his very own role in it. Ali Crandall you are a #berlinlegend now!The Canadian does not have to worry about starting her BMW BERLIN-MARATHON 2020. All others who are interested in a starting place at the BMW BERLIN MARATHON 2020 can register from October 1st (for more information visit: Furthermore, Ali received a freestyle in addition to a special medal Place from the hands of the managing directors of SCC EVENTS Christian Jost and Jürgen Lock. In addition, she was pleased with a set of new tires of the main sponsor Giti Tire and a Polar sports watch Vantage V.

2. Ashete Bekere wons the 46. BMW BERLIN-MARATHON - photo credit: SCC EVENTS/Norbert Wilhelmi


The BMW BERLIN-MARATHON is part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM), the group of six leading marathons in the world which was founded in 2006. They comprise Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York. The winners and leading finishers at the six AWMM races earn points according to their positions which culminate in an overall men’s and women’s winner at the end of a one-year-cycle.

The prize money for the winners amounts to US$ 250,000 each. Since 2016 the series has also included wheelchair athletes. An age group category for mass runners has now been added with a points system to decide men’s and women’s winners. Series XII begins with the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON 2018 and will end with the Berlin race in 2019. Further information about the scoring system for elite and mass competitors can be found at:

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