Ahead of the 49th edition of the event, AW looks back at the 12 world marathon records set in the German capital
The Berlin Marathon approaches its 50th anniversary next year and has established itself as one of the fastest marathon courses in the world.
It’s no surprise that the Berlin Marathon has hosted more world records (12) over 26.2 miles than any single marathon course in history. The total elevation gain is just 241 feet (73m) while the elevation loss is 260 feet (79m).
Out of those 12 world records set in the German capital, three are held by women and 12 by men.
Christa Vahlensieck was the first woman to set a world record in Berlin (2:34:48 in 1977) while Eliud Kipchoge holds the current men’s mark (2:01:09 in 2022).
Kipchoge is aiming to win the Berlin Marathon for a record fifth time and would overtake Haile Gebrselassie in the all-time standings.
The 38-year-old Kenyan also has ambitions to become the first person in history to claim three Olympic marathon gold medals in Paris next summer. He is tied on two golds with Waldemar Cierpinski (Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980) and Abebe Bikila (Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964).
In a recent interview with AW, Kipchoge stated that “Berlin felt like home”.
Below, we’ll look back at his two world records in Berlin plus the 10 others set since the marathon’s inception in 1974.
Christa Vahlensieck (2:34:48) – 1977
Christa Vahlensieck won an astonishing 21 marathons during her career.
In 1973, she became the first ever German to complete the marathon in under three hours (2:59:26) but it was two years later when Vahlensieck left her footprint on the global stage.
That season she broke Julie Brown’s world 10,000m record with 34:01.4 – a mark that stood until 1977. Vahlensieck also shattered compatriot Liane Winter’s world marathon record, clocking 2:40:16 in Dülmen.
The world record changed hands twice between American Jacqueline Hansen (2:38:19) and France’s Chantal Langlacé (2:35:15) before Vahlensieck regained it in Berlin in 1977.
The German became the first female athlete to go sub 2:35 in history after clocking 2:34:48 on home turf.
It was the first world record set at the Berlin Marathon at a time when the distance was being pushed to be included in the Olympics. That occurred seven years later at LA 1984.
Ronaldo da Costa (2:06:05) – 1998
When Ethiopia’s Belayneh Dinsamo set a world record of 2:06:50 in Rotterdam in 1988, no man could beat the mark for 10 years.
That was until Brazilian Ronaldo da Costa ran an incredible 2:06:05 in Berlin in 1998.
Not only did Da Costa become the first person to ever cross the 40km mark in under two hours but he was also the first ever South American – male or female – to hold the world marathon record. He still remains the only one today.
Da Costa also finished 16th in the 10,000m at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics and his highest other finish in a major marathon was also Berlin, when the Brazilian fifth in 1997.
Tegla Loroupe (2:20:43) – 1999
Tegla Loroupe created history in Rotterdam in 1998 when she became the first African woman to hold the world marathon record.
The Kenyan’s 2:20:47 in the Dutch city improved Ingrid Kristiansen’s mark of 2:21:06, which had lasted an incredible 13 years.
Loroupe wasn’t satisfied with just one world record though. At the Berlin Marathon in 1999 she clocked 2:20:43 and replicated Kristiansen in breaking her own record.
It was some career for Loroupe who was also a double world 10,000m bronze medallist, triple individual world half marathon champion and two-time winner of the New York City Marathon.
Naoko Takahashi (2:19:46) – 2001
At the turn of the millennium, the world belonged to Naoko Takahashi.
The Japanese runner became Olympic marathon champion at Sydney 2000, in an Olympic record time of 2:23:14. Such was the speed, it remained the mark to beat at the Games until London 2012.
Then, in 2001, Takahashi ran a world record of 2:19:46 in Berlin. She was the first female athlete in history to go sub 2:20 and beat previous record-holder Tegla Loroupe by more than eight minutes.
However, her world record was rather short-lived as Kenyan Catherine Ndereba ran 2:18:47 exactly a week later at the Chicago Marathon.
Paul Tergat (2:04:55) – 2003
Paul Tergat was imperious on the track, road and grass.
The Kenyan claimed two Olympic 10,000m silver medals in 1996 and 2000, was a triple world 10,000m silver medallist and a five-time world cross country champion.
During his track career, Tergat broke the world 10,000m record with 26:27.85 in Brussels in 1997.
Tergat was also a world record-holder over the half-marathon but in 2003 he created headlines over the globe when he did that over double the distance.
At the Berlin Marathon, Tergat ran 2:04:55, breaking the previous record by 43 seconds. He became the first man to also go below 2:05.
Incredibly, he wasn’t the only one in that race who achieved the feat though. Tergat claimed victory in Berlin in 2003 but by just one second to fellow Kenyan Sammy Korir, who was remarkably a pacemaker in the event.
Haile Gebrselassie (2:04:26/2:03:59) – 2007/2008
Haile Gebrselassie is considered one of the all-time greats in the sport.
A double Olympic and quadruple world 10,000m champion, four-time winner at the World Indoors and an individual world half marathon champion, Gebrselassie has a truly inspirational CV.
The Ethiopian set a mind-boggling 27 world records during in his career and two were in the marathon.
Both of those marks were recorded in Berlin. The first was in 2007 when Gebrselassie ran 2:04:26 and shaved 29 seconds off Paul Tergat’s record.
After withdrawing from the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Gebrselassie instead signed up to the Berlin Marathon again and became the first person ever to break the 2:04 barrier over 26.2 miles.
Patrick Makau (2:03:38) – 2011
Patrick Makau was the person to eventually better Haile Gebrselassie’s world record.
The Kenyan – a double individual cross country silver medallist and team champion – clocked 2:03:38 in the German capital in 2011.
That year, Makau dominated and beat compatriot Stephen Kwelio by over four minutes.
Makau’s world record would last four years and was the first of four Kenyans in the 2010s and beyond to break the mark in Berlin.
Wilson Kipsang (2:03:23) – 2013
An Olympic marathon bronze medallist at London 2012, Wilson Kipsang was favourite to win the gold medal but it instead went to Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich.
Motivated by that result, Kipsang travelled to Berlin a year later in the form of his life.
The Kenyan not only delivered Eliud Kipchoge’s only marathon loss in the German capital but clocked an incredible 2:03:23, shaving 15 seconds off the previous mark from Patrick Makau.
Kipsang has five major marathon wins in his career.
However, in 2020 Kipsang was banned for four years for doping offences, after an initial provisional suspension by the Athletics Integrity Unit for ‘whereabouts failures and tampering or attempted tampering of samples’.
Dennis Kipruto (2:02:57) – 2014
After seeing two fellow Kenyans break the world marathon record in Berlin, Dennis Kipruto joined the club in 2014.
Kipruto ran a time of 2:02:57 in Berlin and became the first person in history to break the 2:03 barrier.
The year before he had set course records in both Tokyo (2:06:50) and Chicago (2:03:45), the latter being the then fastest ever marathon time on US soil.
However, those achievements were superseded by his world record in Berlin a year later.
His 5km splits were: 14:42, 14:42, 14:46, 14:26, 14:32, 14:30, 14:09, 14:42.
He also ran the second half in an astonishing 61:12.
Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:39/2:01:09) – 2018/2022
Where do you even begin with Eliud Kipchoge?
Still going strong at 38, the Kenyan is aiming to win a record-breaking fifth Berlin crown, with the long-term aim of becoming the first ever person to win three Olympic golds over 26.2 miles.
Kipchoge will no doubt of course have the world record at the back of his head, given his last two times were set in Berlin.
The first came in 2018 when Kipchoge clocked 2:01:39, bettering Dennis Kipruto Kimetto’s mark by an awe-inspiring one minute and 18 seconds.
Last year, Kipchoge created even more history in Berlin when he tantalisingly nearly broke 2:01 and ended up with a time of 2:01:09.
That is the current world record and only Kelvin Kiptum has got near it, when the 23-year-old ran 2:01:25 at the London Marathon back in April.
What will happen in Berlin in 2023?
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