Berlin, Germany, September 16—While the 2018 Berlin Marathon will long be remembered for its 2:01:39 on the men’s side, a superb women’s competition followed in Eliud Kipchoge’s wake as countrywoman Gladys Cherono came from behind to win her third Berlin title in a PR 2:18:11, with the Ethiopian duo of Ruti Aga (2:18:34 PR) and Tirunesh Dibaba (2:18:55) filling out the podium. While besting Dibaba, Cherono like most everyone in Berlin had an eye on the clock as she reveled “I feel very happy because I got my personal best and broke the course record.”
Fast times annually abound in the German capital and this competition was truly remarkable in the sheer quality of marks. For starters, Cherono’s time ranks as the No. 6 performance ever, and she moved up to the No. 4 performer spot, trailing only Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25), Mary Keitany (2:17:01), and Dibaba (2:17:56). The 35-year-old Kenyan also set a new course record, bettering Mizuki Noguchi’s ’05 standard by 61 seconds. Aga’s 2:18:34 ranks No. 9 on the All-Time performance list, and the 24 year-old checks in as the 6th fastest performer. While Dibaba was disappointed with her race, her 2:18:55 adds much luster to her marathon achievements as she has the consolation of being the fastest-ever 3rd as Berlin ’18 became the first race with 3 women under 2:19. Dibaba also joined Radcliffe as the only women with 3 sub-2:19 efforts.
Dibaba’s expressed desire to chase Radcliffe-fast times set up some great racing—the only element lacking in Kipchoge’s command performance. While she didn’t bolt away at a 2:15 clip, the Ethiopian track legend drew 4 women into a lead pack that covered the opening 5K in 16:27, followed by a 16:17 that put them on 2:18:07 pace at 10K (32:44). Cherono, Aga, Helen Tola and Edna Kiplagat managed to stick with Dibaba’s low-2:18 tempo through 15K, but then fell off the pace as the Ethiopian mega-medalist forged a 7-second lead when she hit halfway in 69:03.
Yet all was not well as she had problems collecting fluid bottles as she ran amongst what had to be a somewhat annoying bevy of wannabes, and her usual gliding stride looked labored—as it turns out with good reason. Dibaba admitted, “I was training in worse conditions than normal in Ethiopia during the rainy season and I had some muscle problems. I didn’t think of that until I had some problems today and it was really an obstacle.”
In contrast, the veteran Cherono passed over the halfway mat in 69:10 seeming to be in her element with Dibaba still in sight. “I was just running my race; I was not competing with Tirunesh,” Cherono said. “I was confident in my training, and I was just expecting good results and not fearing anybody.”
Accompanied by Aga (also 69:10) she slowly closed in on Dibaba. “We were in the back of Tirunesh after halfway,” said Cherono, adding, “then we pushed because I was fresh and I was feeling strong. It was before 25K that I took the lead and then I ran a negative split.” Indeed she really poured it on when she hit the front and reeled off a steady stream of sub 3:15s as she split 16:12 between 25 and 30K, then sped a 16:02 to pass 35K in 1:54:06—a whopping 2:17:32 pace.
She held 2:17:37 pace through 39K (2:07:10) before struggling home. “My aim was to run to 2:17 but it was very tough finishing the last 3K,” she lamented, adding, “That was terrible; I was so exhausted. I had to trust my training and my fitness came through.” Overall, she joined the top tier of marathon champions with 3 Berlin wins in 4 years (a stress fracture forcing her to sit out the ’16 race).
Aga made a good effort to stick with Cherono’s break at 25K and in the process pulled 20 seconds ahead of Dibaba by 30K. The upright Ethiopian never broke form and managed to maintain her advantage to the finish. Aga recorded her third straight podium finish in Berlin, in each case scoring big PRs as she ran 2:24:41 for 3rd in ’16, finished 2nd last year in 2:20:41, and hit the all-time Top 10 with this 2:18:39 effort. Aga, coming off a runner-up finish earlier this year in Tokyo and being almost a decade younger than the sport’s other top performers, may well be the event’s future.
After struggling midrace, Dibaba managed to close fast over the final 3K to duck under 2:19. She had mixed emotions about her Berlin debut, explaining, “I had some problems so I was really happy to finish 3rd, but I was disappointed that I did not run faster. My wish is to come nearer to the World Record, if not 2:15 at least 2:16 in the coming year.”
Edna Kiplagat finished 4th in 2:21:18 after hanging with Dibaba through 30K at well under her 2:19:50 PR pace. The 38-year-old veteran finished her 19th major, and became the first elite to complete the 6-race Abbott World Marathon Majors tour.
BERLIN MARATHON WOMEN’S RESULTS
World Marathon Major; Berlin, Germany, September 16—
1. Gladys Cherono (Ken) 2:18:11 PR (WL) (4, 6 W) (cr) (69:10/69:01); 2. Ruti Aga (Eth) 2:18:34 PR (5, 9 W) (69:10/69:24); 3. Tirunesh Dibaba (Eth) 2:18:55 PR (8, x W) (69:03/69:52);
4. Edna Kiplagat (Ken) 2:21:18; 5. Mizuki Matsuda (Jpn) 2:22:23 PR; 6. Helen Tola (Eth) 2:22:48 PR; 7. Honami Maeda (Jpn) 2:25:23; 8. Carla Salomé Rocha (Por) 2:25:27 PR; 9. Miyuki Uehara (Jpn) 2:25:46 PR; 10. Rei Ohara (Jpn) 2:27:29; 11. Rachel Cliff (Can) 2:28:53 PR PR; 12. Lyndsay Tessier (Can) 2:30:47 PR; 13. Ines Melchor (Per) 2:32:09; 14. Andrea Deelstra (Neth) 2:32:41; 15. Dawn Grunnagle (US) 2:34:56 PR; 16. Emma Spencer (US) 2:37:05 PR; 17. Cristina Jordan (Spa) 2:37:14 PR; 18. Teresa Montrone (Ita) 2:37:35 PR; 19. Caity Phillips (US) 2:37:48 PR; 20. Matea Parlov (Cro) 2:38:05 PR; 21. Arianne Raby (Can) 2:39:37 PR; 22. Catherine Watkins (Can) 2:40:11 PR; 23. Alexandra Cadicamo (US) 2:40:37 PR; 24. Tomomi Sawahata (Jpn) 2:40:50; 25. Stephanie Davis (GB) 2:41:16 PR.
(best-ever mark-for-place: 3)