Berlin Marathon returns after break with 25,000 participants

National Sports

BERLIN (AP)It already promises to be a Berlin Marathon unlike any other.

The world’s fastest marathon returns on Sunday after its forced one-year absence. Organizers are claiming it is the biggest marathon in the world since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Some 25,000 runners are registered to take part amid strict hygiene measures, down from a record 43,987 finishers in 2019. Participants must be either fully vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19, or have a negative PCR test result. Spectators along the 42.2-kilometer (26-mile, 385-yard) route are being asked to keep their distance and wear face masks as they watch.

For the elite athletes, the Berlin Marathon is a chance for personal glory on a course where more world records have been set than any other.

Ethiopia’s Hiwot Gebrekidan is favored in the women’s race after winning Milan this year with a personal best of 2:19:35 – the fastest time any woman has run a marathon in 2021.

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele is the favorite for the men’s race. He came within two seconds of beating the record when he won the 2019 event in 2 hours, 1 minute, 41 seconds. Bekele, now 39, also won in 2016.

”I have prepared well, but the pandemic hasn’t made it easy in the last two years,” Bekele said Friday about his chances of setting the record on Sunday.

Bekele said his experience from 2019 would help.

”At the time it wasn’t clear whether I could run that fast. This time I have more confidence and will do my best,” Bekele said.

Compatriots Guye Adola, Tadu Abate, Olika Adugna, Tesfaye Lencho all have personal bests under 2:07, as do Kenyan rivals Eliud Kiptanui, Philemon Kacheran, Festus Talam, Michael Njenga and Japan’s Hidekazu Hijikata.

Two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge set the world record of 2:01:39 in Berlin’s race in 2018. It was the seventh time the record was lowered in the German capital since Khalid Khannouchi’s then record of 2:05:38 at the London Marathon in 2002.

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