by Brett Larner
Hot conditions in the final kilometers of the 2009 Berlin Marathon kept times slower than anticipated. With Team Kanebo's Tomohiro Seto a no-show, three elite Japanese men joined the field behind the anticipated duel between Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and Duncan Kibet of Kenya. Former national record holder Atsushi Fujita (Fujitsu) and 2009 World Championships marathon alternate Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) ran together in the second pack, relaxing through a slow first 10 km in 30:53 before the pace began to ratchet downward. At halfway the pair were right together in 1:04:18, Fujita well on track for his sub-2:10 target and Takahashi looking smooth.
When the pack broke apart in the second half Takahashi began to drift away and by 40 km was 45 seconds behind Fujita, who had fallen off sub-2:10 pace himself. Takahashi rallied for a strong finish but could only come within 6 seconds of Fujita by the goal line. Fujita was 8th overall in 2:12:54, Takahashi 9th in 2:13:00. Former Team Subaru runner Girma Assefa of Ethiopia beat both in his marathon debut, finishing 6th in 2:09:58.
Sanspo.com reports that Takahashi had problems after the race when he was selected for a post-race doping test. Takahashi needed to show his passport for ID purposes but had forgotten it at his hotel. Takahashi was forced to wait in the doping control tent for an extended period of time while one of his coaches struggled with road closures to return to the hotel. The coach eventually managed to reach the hotel and fax a copy of Takahashi's passport to anti-doping officials.
2008 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon winner Kentaro Ito (Team Kyowa Hakko Bio) started at what for him was a solid pace, 16:06 for the initial 5 km, maintaining it with mechanical precision as he went through 20 km in 1:04:26. From there he began to fade, clocking 17:01 between 20 and 25 km and ultimately falling as far as a 19:50 split from 35 to 40 km. Television coverage of women's winner Atsede Habtamu of Ethiopia showed her fly past a staggering Ito in the final kilometers. Ito finished 38th in a lowly 2:25:27, overtaken by Shigeaki Hirata (Takigahara SDF Base), the top Japanese finisher at the 2008 Kawaguchiko Marathon, who was 29th in 2:24:38.
Three-time Fuji Mountain Race defending champion Yuri Kanbara (Team Lafine), running Berlin as practice for November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon, was the top Japanese woman in 3:08:35.
Click here for complete results from the 2009 Berlin Marathon.
2009 Berlin Marathon - Top Finishers
click athlete names for splits and finish videos
1. Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) - 2:06:08
2. Francis Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:07:04 - PB
3. Negari Terfa (Ethiopia) - 2:07:41 - PB
6. Girma Assefa (Ethiopia) - 2:09:58 - debut
8. Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) - 2:12:54
9. Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 2:13:00
29. Shigeaki Hirata (Takigahara SDF Base) - 2:24:28
38. Kentaro Ito (Team Kyowa Hakko Bio) - 2:25:27
1. Atsede Habtamu (Ethiopia) - 2:24:47
2. Silvia Skvortsova (Russia) - 2:26:24
3. Mamitu Daska (Ethiopia) - 2:26:38
61. Yuri Kanbara (Team Lafine) - 3:08:45
(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved