Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele crosses the finish line to win the Berlin Marathon on September 29, 2019 in Berlin. Picture: AFP/JOHN MACDOUGALL
Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele crosses the finish line to win the Berlin Marathon on September 29, 2019 in Berlin. Picture: AFP/JOHN MACDOUGALL

Berlin — Former Olympic and world champion Kenenisa Bekele staged a thrilling comeback to win the Berlin marathon on Sunday, dramatically missing out on the world record by 2sec after recording the second fastest time yet.

Ethiopian Bekele, winner in Berlin in 2016 and world record holder over 5,000m and 10,000m, finished in 2hr 1min 41sec, agonisingly close to Eliud Kipchoge’s world record time despite a full sprint in the final 400m.

Kipchoge, who set the world’s best mark in Berlin in 2018, was absent to prepare for his renewed sub-2hr marathon attempt in Vienna on October 12.

“I felt a little pain in the beginning so I dropped behind,” Bekele told reporters. “After a few kilometres I started relaxing so I tried to push a little bit.

“I am very sorry. I am not lucky. I am very happy running my personal best. But I still can do this [world record]; I don’t give up. It is encouraging for the future.”

Bekele was part of a group, including fellow countrymen Birhanu Legese and Sisay Lemma, that quickly broke from the pack with a quick pace.

Legese, winner of  the 2019 Tokyo marathon, gradually shook off Bekele and then Lemma after the 30km mark. But Bekele battled back, leaving Lemma in his wake and then reined in Legese to cruise ahead but missed the world record time by 2sec despite a thrilling sprint towards the finish line.

“I was recovering [from injury] only three months ago. My preparation was not 100%. Fantastic result but I feel sorry missing marathon record by 2sec,” Bekele said.

Legese took second place in 2:02:48, becoming the third-fastest marathon runner ever. Lemma was third, another 48sec behind.

In the women’s race Ethiopian Ashete Bekere beat Mare Dibaba in a sprint to the finish to win with a time of 2:20:14 and complete the Ethiopian sweep.

Reuters