Kenya’s distance running legends believe that the world marathon record will soon dip under the iconic two-hour barrier.
And they concur that, for the umpteenth time, it will most probably be recorded in Berlin.
Speaking after Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto’s world record run in the German political capital on Sunday, Paul Tergat, a previous holder of the marathon record, Moses Tanui, the first man to break the one-hour barrier in the half marathon, Ibrahim Hussein, the first black New York Marathon champion and Yobes Ondieki, the first man to run a sub-27 minute 10,000 metres, all said it was a matter of time before someone beat the 2:00.00 barrier.
The 30-year-old Kimetto on Sunday placed another landmark in the evolution of the marathon world record by running the first sub-two hours, three minutes time in winning the BMW Berlin Marathon in 2:02.57.
His new time on a flat, record-enticing Berlin course sliced 26 seconds off compatriot Wilson Kipsang’s previous mark also recorded in Berlin.
Tergat, holder of the world record at 2:04.55 in 2003 and who was in Berlin last year when Kipsang improved the world record to 2:03.23, says several factors makes the Berlin course world record-friendly.
“First of all, the Berlin course is flat with no hills, unlike other courses. “And then, the weather in Berlin, especially at this time of the year, is perfect for marathon running,” Tergat noted.
Tanui, who also had his run-ins with the legendary Ethiopian, agrees: “The Berlin course is flat and when you have been training on hills like the ones we have in Kenya, then it’s a huge advantage when you run in Berlin.”
Tergat also attributes the deep, lively Berlin crowd and strong fields assembled by race director Mark Milde as good incentives.
“The pacemakers are always great and the crowd is full throughout the course and they encourage you all the way - this makes Berlin special because in other marathons the courses go dead at some point,” Tergat said on Monday while congratulating Kimetto for the brilliant run.
Kimetto’s Dutch manager Gerard van de veen of Volare Sport, who also manages Kipsang, noted that Berlin has the fastest course in the world.
“It is a very flat course and the weather conditions are great. The combination of these two factors and when you have the right pacemakers makes it the fastest in the world,” van de veen said from Berlin.
Meanwhile, Tanui sees the record dipping under two hours soon.
“In 1999 when Khalid Khannouchi ran a world record 2:05.42 in Chicago, I predicted that soon someone will run under two hours,” Tanui, also a former two-time Boston Marathon champion, said in Eldoret on Monday.
“The way people are running these days, in the next three to four years, the two hour barrier will be broken,” added Tanui who ran the first sub-60 minutes half marathon in winning the Milan Half Marathon in 59:47 way back in 1993.
Iowa State University alumnus Ondieki, the first man to run the 10,000 metres on the track under 27 minutes also agrees that the two-hour barrier is beatable.
“But it will take another 10 years,” said the man who stunned the world in 1993 when he clocked 26:58.38 at the Bislett Games in Oslo on July 10, 1993.
“What we saw in Berlin on Sunday was unbelievable! Kimetto never looked fatigued, apart from after the race, and they were running many negative splits.”
Hussein, a three-time winner of the Boston Marathon who also completed a three-peat in the Honolulu Marathon, said it would take a lot of discipline to go under the magical two hours.
“It would take someone with the discipline of Gerbrselassie, who would train patiently for like eight years to go under two hours,” Hussein, winner of the 1987 New York Marathon, said.
Kimetto is expected back on Wednesday with the rest of the Kenyan squad that ran in Berlin on Sunday, including silver medallist Emmanuel Mutai who also dipped inside Kipsang’s former record finishing second in 2:03.13.