Within the next few months, new history will surely be written in the marathon. Three of the world’s biggest cities are going see their roads taken over by some of the world’s best athletes along with thousands of other runners as the World Marathon Majors 2014 season resumes. Perhaps some of you will be joining the crowd in Berlin, Chicago, or New York?
The BMW Berlin Marathon, to be run on September 28th, is home of the past five world records at the distance. Last year, Wilson Kipsang covered the course through the German capital in an astounding 2:03:23, breaking his countryman Patrick Makau’s world record by 15 seconds and cementing his name at the top of the legendary distance. With Kipsang racing in New York this year, the men’s champion is sure to see a new face at the top of the podium in Berlin. That face could belong to Dennis Kimetto, the favorite who boasts the strongest personal best in the field with his 2:03:45 victory from the Chicago Marathon last year. Kimetto faces stiff competition from the likes of former Marathon Major winners Emmanuel Mutai and Tsegaye Kebede as well as the World Half Marathon Champion Geoffrey Kamworor Kipsang. With the pace always set to break the world record, this men’s race in Berlin is sure to be fast and furious.
The women’s race in Berlin does not have as many former major champions as the men’s but is particularly interesting to Americans with Shalane Flanagan taking her first attempt at a flat fast course in a non-championship race. She will surely be targeting Deena Kastor’s American Record of 2:19:36 along with her first World Marathon Major victory. She will not be alone on the German roads though as Paris Marathon champion Feyse Tadese and last year’s Berlin runner-up Tirfi Tsegaye will be looking for the win as well.
Two weeks later the marathon world will turn its attention to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 12th. While Berlin has the history to back up the “fastest course in the world” claim, Chicago has seen a few world records of its own and has recruited a phenomenal field to match its history. Headlining the women’s field is defending champion Rita Jeptoo, a woman with a resume that rivals any active marathoner. With her sub 2:20 personal record, she is going to be tough for anyone to run away from and her consecutive victories at the Boston Marathon. As talented as Rita is, she will have her hands full with Florence Kiplagat, another sub 2:20 marathoner who broke the world half marathon record earlier this year with an astounding 1:05:12.
Leading the men’s race in Chicago is a grudge match over a decade old. The 2003 Track and Field World Championships 5000m saw Eliud Kipchoge beat world record holders Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele in one of the sports greatest races. While El Guerrouj retired after the 2004 Olympics, Bekele and Kipchoge have raced each other time and time again on the track and to see them take it to the marathon in Chicago is another chapter in a storied rivalry. As with all of their encounters, Bekele and Kipchoge will be joined by some of the world’s best runners hungry for victory as well. Bernard Koech and Sammy Kitwara certainly have the credentials to win a major marathon with fast personal bests and victories in road races of all distances.
As amazing as those races are shaping up to be, the TCS New York City Marathon is rarely outdone. With the fastest marathoner of all time and defending NYC champion, Geoffrey Mutai (2:03: 02 at the 2011 Boston Marathon, which is not a record legal course) taking on the world record holder in the marathon Wilson Kipsang, the competition is sure to be intense. Those runners are so good that Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic champion is a footnote in the field. Of course, Americans are keenly interested in Meb Keflezighi’s return to the marathon after his venerable victory in Boston earlier this year.
The women’s field in New York matches well with the men’s field. Defending champion Priscah Jeptoo is set to take on a number of athletes with top experience over 26.2 miles. Jeptoo is not the only runner familiar with crossing the line in New York first, as 2011 champion Farehiwot Dado, 2010 winner Edna Kiplagat, and Jelena Prokopcuka who won a pair of NYC Marathons in 2005 and 2006. Despite their success in the Big Apple, the most talented runner in the women’s field is Mary Keitany, who hopes to come back from a laying low in 2013 as she gave birth. Local favorite and defending runner-up Buzunesh Deba will surely be in the mix as well.
Running Warehouse and distance running fans everywhere will be paying close attention to these and other races as athletes continue to challenge the clock, the competition, and 26.2 miles of unforgiving pavement for another season of fall marathons.