Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele came agonizingly close to setting a new world record at the Berlin Marathon on Sunday, ultimately falling just two seconds shy of his goal with a time of 2 hours, 1 minute, 41 seconds.
The Olympic champion, who holds world records in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter events, nearly bested Eliud Kipchoge's 2018 record of 2:01:39.
“I am very sorry,” Bekele said, via Reuters. “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.”
The Berlin Marathon has become the signature events for top marathon runners over the last century. Since 2003, all seven of the new world records have been set at the event.
Bekele’s mile pace of 4 minutes and 39 seconds is even more impressive considering the litany the injuries he has battled over the years. The 37-year-old had to withdraw from the Tokyo Marathon in March due to a stress fracture and dropped out of last year's Amsterdam Marathon with an undisclosed injury. Notably, he also injured himself in a fall early in the 2017 Dubai Marathon and dropped out midway through.
“I was recovering (from injury) only three months ago,” Bekele said. “My preparation was not 100 percent. Fantastic result but I feel sorry missing the marathon record by two seconds.
“I felt a little pain in the beginning so I dropped behind. After a few kilometers I started relaxing so I tried to push a little bit.”
Bekele, who was left off Ethiopia’s 2016 Olympic team, is hoping to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, where he would have a chance to win gold for the first time in the event.
Bekele showed impressive endurance after falling behind fellow countryman Berhanu Legese by 13 seconds at the 35-kilometer mark. He pulled ahead around the 38-kilometer mark and wound up with his 2:01:41 mark after sprinting the final 400 meters. Legese went on to finish second at 2:02:48, which is the third-fastest marathon time ever.
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