Patrick Makau of Kenya crossed the finish line to win the 38th Berlin Marathon on Sunday with
a record-breaking time of 2 hours 3 minutes 38 seconds.
BERLIN — Patrick Makau of Kenya set a world record on Sunday by winning the Berlin Marathon on a flat, searing course in 2 hours 3 minutes 38 seconds.
Kenya swept the day with Florence Kiplagat winning the women’s race in 2:19:44. Paula Radcliffe of England, the women’s world record holder, ran her first marathon in nearly 23 months after giving birth to her second child and easily qualified for the 2012 London Games with a third-place finish in 2:23:46.
Makau, 25, won the Berlin race for the second consecutive year and became the second man to run 26.2 miles under 2:04. The previous record of 2:03:59 was set by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia on this same Berlin course in 2008.
“A new generation is coming that is running very well,” said Makau, who shaved 70 seconds off his previous best of 2:04:48, which was the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon.
In a dramatic moment Sunday, Gebrselassie stopped running for about a minute just before 17 miles, after Makau made a break. Gebrselassie bent over and appearing ill or exhausted. He rejoined the race after about a minute but stopped running before the finish.
At 38, Gebrselassie’s chances of making the Ethiopian marathon team for the 2012 London Games appear to be over. He has now dropped out of his last two marathons, stopping in New York at 16 miles in November with a knee injury; he then retired from running for a brief time.
He is considered by many the greatest distance runner of all time, and has two Olympic gold medals at 10,000 meters (1996 and 2000), but another, more permanent retirement might follow Sunday’s disappointment.
Meanwhile, Makau is on the rise. Last year, in the rain, his socks bunching in his shoes, Makau won in Berlin in 2:05:48. But Sunday, the weather conditions were more accommodating — sunny and 53 degrees — and Makau’s victory , orchestrated by a phalanx of pacesetters, became inevitable after a breakaway at 16.7 miles (27 kilometers).
He might have run a second or two faster, but he had to jump over a small advertising placard in his final strides to align himself with the tape at the finish line.
“This has been the greatest day of my running life,” he said. “When I woke up, my body didn’t feel very good. As the race went on, I felt better. At 25 kilometers, I felt I could break the world record. It’s a great thing to beat Haile, one of my heroes.”
In winning Sunday’s race, Makau established himself as an early favorite at the London Olympics, especially after the reigning Olympic champion, Sammy Wanjiru, a fellow Kenyan, died in a mysterious fall in May.
At the Boston Marathon in April, Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02) and Moses Mosop (2:03:06) ran faster than Makau’s Berlin time, but the Boston course does not qualify for a world record because of its elevation drop and its failure to meet international requirements for a loop course.
There was some consolation for Mosop, his wife, Kiplagat, won the women’s race. Irina Miktenko of Germany, the Berlin winner in 2007 and 2008, finished second Sunday in 2:22:18.
Kiplagat completed her first marathon since dropping out in Boston. She was the 2009 world cross-country champion and the 2010 world half-marathon champion.
The men’s race had six pacemakers in a v-shaped formation, leading a pack of five elite runners. By 16.7 miles, the pacemakers were down to two, paving the way for the remaining contenders, Makau and Gebrselassie.
Makau then moved from one side of the road to another and made a decisive break. Gebrselassie slipped behind and then stepped off the course, put his hand over his stomach and bent over, as if he were going to throw up.
But 51 seconds later, desperately needing a fast time to preserve his shot at making the Ethiopian Olympic marathon team, Gebrselassie jumped back into the race. One pacemaker, then another, eventually drifted back to assist him, but he could not complete the course.
By 18.5 miles, Makau had dropped his final pacemaker and was on his own. In April, he had fallen at the London Marathon but recovered to finish third in 2:05:45. That did not happen on Sunday as Makau ran unimpeded, arms swinging wide, drawing away with a muscular style that made him the fastest marathoner in history.
Meanwhile Radcliffe, 37, had mixed feelings about finishing third, a placement that came after a difficult year of a thyroid illness and back problems.
“I’m some ways, I’m happy; in other ways, I’m disappointed with third place,” Radcliffe said. “It’s been a tough year. With everything I had to go through, I should accept this. At least I have an Olympic qualifying time. Now I have to build on that for London.”