Our Preview of the Upcoming Fall Marathon Season

By Jörg Wenig

Geoffrey Mutai Hopes for a Record Time in Berlin
Can Liliya Shobukhova Win for the Fourth Time in Chicago?
World-Record Holder Patrick Makau Runs in Frankfurt
Wilson Kipsang versus Moses Mosop in New York
Selected Autumn Races

The start of the Berlin Marathon. © www.PhotoRun.net
The start of the Berlin Marathon. © www.PhotoRun.net

Berlin… Chicago… Frankfurt… New York… Amsterdam…

On the streets of these five legendary cities, some of the best long-distance runners in the world will compete against each other during the upcoming fall marathon season—an elite series of races guaranteeing excitement and beginning on the last Sunday of September in Berlin.

It was at the 2011 BMW Berlin Marathon that running history was made, with Kenyan Patrick Makau setting the current world record of 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 38 seconds. With no fewer than eight world records being set during its history, Berlin has continued to justify its reputation as one of the fastest courses available for marathoners.

Anticipation is building this year as Geoffrey Mutai aims to better his countryman’s amazing time. The Kenyan ran to a sensational win in the 2011 Boston Marathon in 2:03:02. But his time could not be an official world record because the Boston course—despite its hills and other difficulties—does not meet IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) certification requirements.

When Geoffrey begins his record chase in Germany, Patrick will be watching the race on TV at home in Kenya—with four weeks of preparation to go before he lines up at the BMW Frankfurt Marathon. Imagine the atmosphere in Frankfurt if Patrick is attempting to get his world record back from Geoffrey.

Berlin: Geoffrey Mutai to be Challenged by Newcomers

Geoffrey Mutai, seen here at the 2011 Boston Marathon, is aiming for the world and course record in Berlin. © www.PhotoRun.net
Geoffrey Mutai, seen here at the 2011 Boston Marathon, is aiming for the world and course record in Berlin. © www.PhotoRun.net

Geoffrey Mutai knows the Berlin course well. Two years ago, he finished second in 2:05:08—two seconds behind fellow Kenyan Patrick Makau. If Geoffrey triumphs on September 30 in his second attempt, the former steeplechaser will also win the 2011-2012 World Marathon Majors (WMM) series. Among the women, however, the WMM rankings are less certain and may not be determined until the final race in New York City.

Who stands the best chance at defeating Geoffrey Mutai? Judged on his personal best, Jonathan Maiyo would be the closest contender. The 24-year-old Kenyan improved his time to 2:04:56 with a fourth-place showing in Dubai this year. Behind him, in eighth position, was Ethiopia’s Deressa Chimsa (2:05:42), who also will be running in Berlin. Nicholas Kamakya of Kenya who finished fourth in Amsterdam last year with a personal best of 2:06:34, will be another strong competitor.

But two Kenyan newcomers—Dennis Kimetto and Geoffrey Kipsang—could challenge the field. The 28-year-old Dennis Kimetto appeared on the international scene just this year, but not only won the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates—a top-tier event—but also the Vattenfall Berlin Half Marathon, improving his best time to 59:14 minutes. On top of that, he set a world record for 25K at the BIG 25 in Berlin (1:11:18). Dennis also might benefit from being Geoffrey Mutai’s occasional training partner.

The other debutant to watch in Berlin, Geoffrey Kipsang, is only 19 years old—but he already has fond memories of the German capital. Last year, he was a surprise winner of the half marathon there, clocking 60:38. After being a pacemaker at the 2011 Berlin and 2012 Rotterdam Marathons, he is now eager to run the full 26.2-mile distance. According to reports, Geoffrey Kipsang is in good form and ready for a very fast race. He trains with a group that includes the surprise Olympic gold medalist in the marathon, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda. Maybe that is a good omen for Geoffrey Kipsang’s prospects in Berlin.

In the women’s event, 23-year-old Ethiopian Aberu Kebede returns after winning the Berlin Marathon title in 2010 in 2:23:58. Aberu hopes to run faster this year. After improving to 2:20:33 in the 2012 Dubai Marathon, her new target is to go under 2:20. Her compatriot Ashu Kasim (personal best: 2:23:09) and three Kenyan rivals—Philes Ongori (2:24:20), Valentine Kipketer (2:28:02), and the debutant, Caroline Chepkwony—are likely to play a role in the outcome. Fate Tola (Ethiopia/2:26:35) also will be a runner to watch. The two-time Vienna Marathon winner trains with German-record holder Irina Mikitenko.

Chicago: Strong Women Turn Out for Anniversary Race

The start of the Chicago Marathon. © www.PhotoRun.net
The start of the Chicago Marathon. © www.PhotoRun.net

The 35th edition of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon will take place on October 7—with over 45,000 runners registered for this great anniversary race and about 1.7 million spectators expected to line the course. Among the men are five athletes with best times between 2:05 and 2:06. “The men’s field is the deepest we’ve ever had in Chicago, and I think it will take a career performance to win,” says race director Carey Pinkowski.

Kenyan Levy Matebo, the fastest man in the Chicago field, ran his personal best a year ago in Frankfurt, finishing second in 2:05:16. Tsegaye Kebede, the former London champion (2:05:18) from Ethiopia, as well as his compatriots Feyisa Lilesa (2:05:23), Dadi Yami (2:05:41), and Shami Abdulahi (2:05:42) also have best times under 2:06. Another five competitors already have run faster than 2:07. Others who may influence the race’s outcome are marathon debutants who have shown world-class performances in the half marathon: Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) is the fourth-fastest runner of all time in “the half” with a 58:48, and Tilahun Regassa (Ethiopia) set a course record of 59:19 in Abu Dhabi two years ago.

The women’s race in Chicago also promises to be exciting. The Russian Liliya Shobukhova, who set her personal best of 2:18:20 a year ago in Chicago, is aiming to win for the fourth time in a row—an unprecedented feat. Since her victory last year, however, Liliya has only raced once, dropping out early in the Olympic Marathon in London due to stomach cramps. The 34-year-old wants to make a convincing comeback in the familiar streets of the Windy City.

The Russian will face stiffer competition than in recent years. Among her rivals will be Kenya’s newcomer in the marathon, Lucy Kabuu, who finished second in 2:19:34 on her debut in Dubai. Atsede Baysa (2:22:04) and Ejegayehu Dibaba (2:22:09), two strong Ethiopian contenders, are also in the race, and Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo (Boston Marathon champion 2006) is another runner to watch.

Frankfurt: Four Runners with Best Times under 2:05:30

World-record holder Patrick Makau, seen here after winning the 2011 Berlin Marathon, will run in Frankfurt. © www.PhotoRun.net
World-record holder Patrick Makau, seen here after winning the 2011 Berlin Marathon, will run in Frankfurt. © www.PhotoRun.net

The elite men’s field in Frankfurt on October 28 is arguably the best in the race’s history. Lining up alongside Patrick Makau will be three athletes with best times under 2:05:30. Yemane Tsegay, Albert Matebor, and Bazu Worku will provide serious competition for Patrick Makau, joined by the former Frankfurt-record holder, Gilbert Kirwa (2:06:14 in 2009).

Ethiopia’s Yemane Tsegay celebrated his first major international win at the ABN AMRO Rotterdam Marathon in April, with an outstanding time of 2:04:48. He finished with a time of 2:06:20 at the Dubai Marathon in January. Bazu Worku, just 22, is another world-class Ethiopian runner. The former world junior record holder (2:06:15 at the 2009 Paris Marathon) ran his best time two years ago in Berlin. In that race, he finished third in 2:05:25 in the rain behind Patrick Makau and Geoffrey Mutai. It gave Bazu Worku exactly the same personal best as Albert Matebor, the 31-year-old Kenyan who achieved this result in Frankfurt a year ago when he finished third.

The women’s elite field may not be as strong as the men’s, but the 2:20 mark could be broken for the first time in Frankfurt—with Mamitu Daska and Bezunesh Bekele being the top contenders. Mamitu returns as last year’s champion when she ran 2:21:59. Bezunesh was fourth in Dubai in January (2:20:30)—matching her finishing place in the 2011 World Championships.

Amsterdam: Fast Times in Store for the Men

Very fast times are expected for the men’s race in Amsterdam. Last year’s winner, Wilson Chebet (2:05:27), will face off against Peter Kirui (Kenya) who was a pacemaker in the Berlin and Frankfurt Marathons last year. He finished the race along the river Main in 2:06:31. The names of other athletes who will be running in the Netherlands on October 21 have not yet been finalized.

New York City: Wilson Kipsang versus Moses Mosop

The subject of so many New York Marathon runners’ dreams—Central Park, where the race finishes. © www.PhotoRun.net
The subject of so many New York Marathon runners’ dreams—Central Park, where the race finishes. © www.PhotoRun.net

This series of spectacular autumn marathons reaches its peak on November 4 with the ING New York City Marathon—which also is the final race in the World Marathon Majors (WMM) Series 2011-2012. In the biggest marathon in the world—last year 46,795 participants reached the finish in Central Park—the women’s competition should provide an exciting WMM finale.

Three runners from Kenya—this year’s Boston champion, Sharon Cherop, the World champion Edna Kiplagat, and the London Marathon winner, Mary Keitany—still have a chance to win the $500,000 prize.

While Mary Keitany will not run in New York because of a leg injury, only victory will suffice for Sharon Cherop or Edna Kiplagat to guarantee first place in the WMM Series. Second place in the Big Apple for either of them would not be enough to take the overall lead from Mary Keitany.

Olympic champion Tiki Gelana, pictured here at the 2012 Olympics in London, will compete in New York City. © www.PhotoRun.net
Olympic champion Tiki Gelana, pictured here at the 2012 Olympics in London, will compete in New York City. © www.PhotoRun.net

Yet the two women face very tough competition in Olympic champion Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia and the bronze medalist Tatyana Arkhipova-Petrova of Russia. However, it remains to be seen how strong they will be only three months after the London Games. And last year’s winner, Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia, will also be be back in New York City to defend her title.

The men’s race is marked by the meeting of the two second-fastest marathoners of all time. Kenya’s Moses Mosop is the fastest man in the field with his time of 2:03:06—an outstanding performance that gained him second place in last year’s Boston Marathon, but on a course that is not certified for record purposes. His fellow countryman Wilson Kipsang ran 2:03:42 in Frankfurt a year ago, within four seconds of the world record.

This is where it gets a little complicated! It means that Moses Mosop is the second-fastest unofficial marathoner, while Wilson Kipsang is the second-fastest official runner. Both stars will be competing against the 2010 winner, Gebre Gebremariam (Ethiopia/best time: 2:04:53), and the current Paris Marathon champion, Stanley Biwott (Kenya/2:05:12), who was selected as a reserve for the Olympics, but did not participate.

Meb Keflezighi (best time 2:09:08), the top U.S. finisher in the Olympic Marathon who took fourth place in London after a memorable move up from the back of the pack throughout the race, will also be toeing the starting line. Abdi Abdirahman (2:08:56)—forced to drop out of the Olympic marathon in London due to injury—is the other American in contention.

Round-Up of Autumn Marathon Dates

 30 September     Berlin
   7 October Chicago
 14 October Eindhoven
 21 October Amsterdam
 28 October Frankfurt
   4 November New York
 11 November Athens
 18 November Turin
 25 November Osaka
   2 Dezember  Fukuoka (Elite Men’s Race)

Dates and Leading Runners of Selected Autumn Races

Berlin (September 30)

World Marathon Majors (WMM)-Race
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: appr. 41,000
Entries still possible: No
Internet: www.BMW-Berlin-Marathon.com
TV: Live on n-tv and Eurosport as well as Live-Stream on Internet (UniversalSports.com)

Prize Money: 40,000 Euros
Total Prize Money: 233,000 Euros

Course Records:
2:03:38—Patrick Makau (KEN), WR
2:19:12—Mizuki Noguchi (JPN)

Elite Athletes and their Personal Bests:
Men: Geoffrey Mutai (KEN/2:03:02), Jonathan Maiyo (KEN/2:04:56), Deresse Chimsa (ETH/2:05:42), Nicholas Kamakya (KEN/2:06:34), Felix Keny (KEN/2:07:31), Stephen Chemlany (KEN/2:07:55), Masakazu Fujiwara (JPN/2:08:12), Yared Dagnaw (ERI/2:08:13), Samuel Woldeamanuel (ETH/2:08:45), Luke Kibet (KEN/2:08:52), Jonathan Kiptoo (KEN/2:09:57), John Kyui (KEN/2:10:00), Atsushi Ikawa (JPN/2:11:04), Suehiro Ichikawa (JPN/2:11:13), Josphat Keiyo (KEN/2:11:18), Arkadiusz Gardzielewski (POL/2:11:34), Pedro Nimo (ESP/2:12:10), Jan Fitschen (GER/2:15:40), Geoffrey Kipsang (KEN/Debut), Dennis Kimetto (KEN/Debut).
Women: Aberu Kebede (ETH/2:20:33), Ashu Kasim (ETH/2:23:09), Philes Ongori (KEN/2:24:20), Flomena Chepchirchir (KEN/2:24:21), Yuri Kano (JPN/2:24:27), Alevtina Biktimirova (RUS/2:25:12), Olena Shurno (UKR/2:25:49), Fate Tola (ETH/2:26:35), Valentine Kipketer (KEN/2:28:02), Anna Hahner (GER/2:30:14), Sonia Samuels (GBR/2:33:41), Caroline Chepkwony (KEN/Debut).

Chicago (October 7)

World Marathon Majors (WMM)-Rennen
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 45,000
Entries still possible: No
Internet: www.ChicagoMarathon.com
TV: Live on NBC 5 Chicago and possible Live-Stream on Internet (NBCChicago.com)

Prize Money: $125,000
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): $485,000

Course Records:
2:05:37—Moses Mosop (KEN)
2:17:18—Paula Radcliffe (GBR)

Elite Athletes and their Personal Bests:
Men: Levy Matebo (KEN/2:05:16), Tsegaye Kebede (ETH/2:05:18), Feyisa Lilesa (ETH/2:05:23), Dadi Yami (ETH/2:05:41), Shami Abdulahi (ETH/2:05:42), Laban Korir (KEN/2:06:05), Wesley Korir (KEN/2:06:15), Raji Assefa (ETH/2:06:24), Bernard Kipyego (KEN/2:06:29), Michael Kipyego (KEN/2:06:48), Samuel Ndungu (KEN/2:07:04), Takahashi Horiguchi (JPN/2:09:16), Dathan Ritzenhein (USA/2:09:55), Sammy Kitwara (KEN/Debut), Tilahun Regassa (ETH/Debut).
Women: Liliya Shobukhova (RUS/2:18:20), Lucy Kabuu (KEN/2:19:34), Atsede Baysa (ETH/2:22:04), Ejegayehu Dibaba (ETH/2:22:09), Rita Jeptoo (KEN/2:23:38), Maria Konovalova (RUS/2:23:50), Caroline Rotich (KEN/2:24:26), Werknesh Kidane (ETH/2:26:15), Belaynesh Zemedkun (ETH/2:26:17).

Amsterdam (October 21)

IAAF Silver Label Race
Entries: appr. 12,000
Entries still possible: No
Internet: www.TCSAmsterdamMarathon.nl

Prize Money: not known

Course Records:
2:05:44—Getu Feleke (ETH)
2:22:08—Tiki Gelana (ETH)

Elite Athletes and their Personal Bests:
Men: Wilson Chebet (KEN/2:05:27), Peter Kirui (KEN/2:06:31), Michel Butter (NED/2:12:59), Atsedu Tsegay (ETH/Debut).
Women and other men still to be announced

Frankfurt (October 28)

IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: probably 15,000
Entries still possible: Yes
Internet: www.BMW-Frankfurt-Marathon.com
TV: Live on hr and Live-Stream on Internet

Prize Money: 20,000 Euros
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): 118,000 Euros

Course Records:
2:03:42—Wilson Kipsang (KEN)
2:21:59—Mamitu Daska (ETH)

Elite Athletes and their Personal Bests (announced so far):
Men: Patrick Makau (KEN/2:03:38/WR), Yemane Tsegay (ETH/2:04:48), Albert Matebor (KEN/2:05:25), Bazu Worku (ETH/2:05:25), Gilbert Kirwa (KEN/2:06:14), Wilfred Kigen (KEN/2:07:33), Abraham Kiprotich (KEN/2:08:35), Daniel Limo (KEN/2:08:59), Peter Some (KEN/2:10:16), Peter Wanjiru (KEN/2:12:11), Mustafa Mohamed (SWE/2:12:28), Sören Kah (GER/2:14:25).
Women: Bezunesh Bekele (ETH/2:20:30), Mamitu Daska (ETH/2:21:59), Georgina Rono (KEN/2:24:33), Fatuma Sado (ETH/2:25:39), Agnes Barsosio (KEN/2:25:49).

New York City (November 4)

World Marathon Majors (WMM)-Rennen
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: appr. 60,000
Entries still possible: No
Internet: www.INGNYCMarathon.org
TV: Live probably on Eurosport, ABC7, ESPN and probably Live-Stream on Internet

Prize Money: $130,000
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): appr. $800,000

Course Records:
2:05:06—Geoffrey Mutai (KEN)
2:22:31—Margaret Okayo (KEN)

Elite Athletes and their Personal Bests (announced so far):
Men: Moses Mosop (KEN/2:03:06), Wilson Kipsang (KEN/2:03:42), Gebre Gebremariam (ETH/2:04:53), Stanley Biwott (KEN/2:05:12), Abdi Abdirahman (USA/2:08:56), Meb Keflezighi (USA/2:09:08), Jason Hartmann (USA/2:11:06).
Women: Tiki Gelana (ETH/2:18:58), Edna Kiplagat (KEN/2:19:50), Sharon Cherop (KEN/2:22:39), Firehiwot Dado (ETH/2:23:15), Tatyana Arkhipova-Petrova (RUS/2:23:29), Valeria Straneo (ITA/2:23:44).

The Top Ten Fastest Marathon Times*


 2:03:38 Hours  Patrick Makau KEN Berlin (GER) 09/25/2011 
 2:03:42 Wilson Kipsang KEN Frankfurt (GER) 10/30/2011
 2:03:59 Haile Gebrselassie  ETH Berlin (GER) 09/28/2011
 2:04:23 Ayele Abshero ETH Dubai (UAE) 01/27/2011
 2:04:26 Haile Gebrselassie KEN Berlin (GER) 09/30/2007
 2:04:27 Duncan Kibet KEN Rotterdam (NED)  04/05/2009
 2:04:27 James Kwambai KEN Rotterdam (NED) 04/05/2009
 2:04:40 Emmanuel Mutai KEN London (GBR) 04/17/2011
 2:04:44 Wilson Kipsang KEN London (GBR) 04/22/2012
 2:04:48 Patrick Makau KEN  Rotterdam (NED) 04/11/2010

*Boston: on April 18, 2011, Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) won the Boston Marathon in 2:03:02 by four seconds from his compatriot Moses Mosop (2:03:06). However, the race times cannot be recognized as official world or national records since the course does not meet the relevant regulations. (Max. drop of one meter per kilometer, start and finish must be situated a max. 50% of the entire course separate from each other.) The drop on the point-to-point course in Boston is 139m.


 2:15:25 Hours  Paula Radcliffe GBR London (GBR) 04/13/2003 
 2:17:18 Paula Radcliffe GBR Chicago (USA) 10/13/2002
 2:17:42 Paula Radcliffe GBR  London (GBR) 04/17/2005
 2:18:20 Liliya Shobukhova RUS Chicago (USA) 10/09/2011
 2:18:37 Mary Keitany KEN London (GBR) 04/22/2012
 2:18:47 Catherine Ndereba  KEN Chicago (USA) 10/07/2001
 2:18:56 Paula Radcliffe GBR London (GBR) 04/14/2002
 2:19:12 Tiki Gelana ETH Rotterdam (NED)  04/15/2012
 2:19:12 Mizuki Noguchi JPN Berlin (GER) 09/25/2005
 2:19:19 Irina Mikitenko GERBerlin (GER)09/28/2008

World Marathon Majors (WMM)
Rankings for the Season 2011-2012*


 1. Geoffrey Mutai KEN  50 Points 
 2. Wesley Korir KEN 40
  Emmanuel Mutai KEN 40
  Moses Mosop KEN 40
  Abel Kirui KEN 40
 6. Patrick Makau KEN 35
  Wilson Kipsang KEN 35
 8. Martin Lel KEN 30
 9. Stephen Kiprotich  KEN 25
 10.  Tsegaye Kebede KEN 21


 1. Mary Keitany KEN  65 Points 
 2. Edna Kiplagat KEN 50
 3. Sharon Sherop KEN 45
 4. Liliya Shobukhova  RUS 40
   Priscah Jeptoo KEN 40
 6. Firehiwot Dado ETH 30
  Florence Kiplagat KEN 30
 8. Caroline Kilel KEN 25
  Tiki Gelana ETH 25
 10.  Desiree Davila USA 15

*Each WMM Series takes place over a two-year cycle. The men’s and women’s champions share equally prize money of $1 million. The top five in each WMM race score points with the winner receiving 25 and the remainder 15, 10, 5, and 1.