Posted by: Joe English | September 6, 2008

Racing: Wanjiru lays down marathon world record challenge for 2009

Sammy Wanjiru with Olympic Gold Medal

Sammy Wanjiru with Olympic Gold Medal

Sammy Wanjiru, newly crowned Olympic Gold medalist in the marathon, has something to say to world record holder Haile Gebrselassie: I’m coming after ya’. The 21-year old told the France 24 news agency today that he plans to break the world record next year in Berlin.

Wanjiru said shortly after the Olympics that he was planning to chase the world record, currently held by Gebrselassie, but that he had to pick a site and time for that challenge. It appears that he wants to do it on the very course that has seen the last two world records set: Berlin.

“I want to aim for a world record in the Berlin Marathon next year. I want to be number one at any Olympics,” he was quoted as saying. The later statement about the Olympics foreshadowing his desire add more medals to his trophy case.

The Berlin Marathon is a superb course for world records, because it is very flat, has few corners with its diamond-like shape, and typically boasts excellent weather conditions.

Paul Tergat set the world record on the Berlin Marathon course in September 203, when he ran his 2:04:55 time there.

Haille Gebrselassie picked the same course for his own world record attemt in September 2007 and ran 2:04:26 on the course. Haile then attempted another world record in Dubai this past January, but didn’t reach a new record. He did run the second fastest time in history, again surpassing Tergat’s old time in 2:04:53. Gebrselassie has said that he plans to return to Berlin, after skipping the Olympics, to try to break the world record again — this time perhaps (some people speculate) even trying to break 2:04:00 for the first time in history.

The young Wanjiru has the chops to set out such a challenge. He has twice set the world half-marathon record and now has the Olympic Gold and Olympic Marathon record. But looking deeper into the numbers, he has the speed that could take him into world record territory. In his first three marathons (at 21 years of age), his slowest time is 2:06:39. He ran that time in his debut at Fukokoa in December, in his first attemt at the distance. He then ran the London marathon in 2:05:24, the sixth fastest time in history, just a few months later.

Given time, Wanjiru will become even more comfortable with the distance and his training will take him to new heights for sure. His job now will be to train correctly and avoid injuries as he gets faster. If he is able to do that then we could have an amazing match-up on our hands: two runners with the potential to really push the world record racing at the same time in history. A head-to-head match-up would be something I’d love to see.

We’ll have complete coverage of the upcoming Berlin Marathon and Haile Gebrselassie’s world record attempt later this month. Check back for it.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Managing Editor, Running Advice and News


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