BERLIN (Reuters) – 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 two seconds after recording the second fastest time ever.
Ethiopian Bekele, winner in Berlin in 2016 and world record holder over 5,000 and 10,000 meters, finished in two hours, one minute and 41 seconds, agonizingly close to Eliud Kipchoge’s world record time despite a full sprint in the final 400 meters.
Kipchoge, who set the world’s best mark in Berlin last year, was absent to prepare for his renewed sub-two hour marathon attempt in Vienna on Oct. 12.
“I felt a little pain in the beginning so I dropped behind,” Bekele told reporters. “After a few kilometers I started relaxing so I tied 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 this year’s Tokyo marathon, then 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 two seconds despite a thrilling sprint toward 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 two seconds,” Bekele said.
Legese took second place in 2:02:48, becoming the third fastest marathon runner ever. Lemma was third, another 48 seconds 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.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)