I’m pretty sure that if I asked you what Japan’s Mizuki Noguchi was known for you might, at a push, know her as the lady who won the 2004 Athens Olympic marathon which everyone expected Paula Radcliffe to win. I suspect though that you wouldn’t say that she held the course record at the flattest and therefore most World-Record likely of the World Marathon Majors but that is indeed the case - Noguchi ran 2:19:12 back in 2005 and noone has troubled her time since.
I’d love to have a debate about why the women’s race at Berlin is so low key compared to the men (and why it barely got any airtime last year) but right now the race is knocking on our door and more pressing is the matter of previewing the elites who have the option to make the women’s race stand up to the Kipchoge / Kipsang / Tadese powerhouse of the men’s race. Berlin’s media centre are bigging the ladies up and want us to believe that “If conditions merit and the weather is cool, the women could be after Paula Radcliffe’s 2002 world record (2:15:25). so, let’s have a look and see if that’s remotely likely or just hype.
I’ll give you the list of elites first and then we’ll have a look at some of them in more detail.
45th BMW Berlin Marathon Elite Women’s Start List
|Rank by PB||Name||Country||Date of Birth||Personal Best||Placing for PB||Race PB set at|
|1||Gladys Cherono||KEN||12.05.83||02:19:25||1||Berlin 15|
|2||Tirunesh Dibaba||ETH||01.10.85||02:17:56||2||London 17|
|3||Aselefech Mergia||ETH||23.01.85||02:19:31||1||Dubai 12|
|4||Edna Kiplagat||KEN||15.11.79||02:19:50||2||London 12|
|5||Ruti Aga||ETH||16.01.94||02:20:41||2||Berlin 17|
|6||Mizuki Matsuda||JPN||31.05.95||02:22:44||1||Osaka 18|
|7||Rei Ohara||JPN||10.08.90||02:23:20||3||Nagoya 16|
|8||Honami Maeda||JPN||17.07.96||02:23:48||2||Osaka 18|
|9||Inés Melchor||PER||30.8.86||02:26:48||8||Berlin 14|
|10||Carla Rocha||POR||25.04.90||02:27:08||6||Prag 17|
|11||Caterina Ribeiro||POR||31.05.90||02:30:10||2||Porto 16|
|12||Ines Montero||POR||18.05.80||02:30:36||5||Rotterdam 08|
|13||Rachel Hannah||CAN||02.10.86||02:32:09||6||Houston 16|
|14||Dawn Grunnagle||USA||29.11.77||02:35:43||10||Sacramento 17|
|15||Hiruni Wijayaratne||SRI||05.12.90||02:36:35||8||Houston 18|
|16||Lyndsay Tessier||CAN||21.01.78||02:36:55||6||Toronto 17|
|17||Manuela Soccol||BEL||16.06.88||02:37:09||14||Hamburg 16|
|18||Caitlin Phillips||USA||13.07.82||02:38:27||16||Berlin 17|
|19||Cristina Jordan||ESP||23.07.89||02:38:44||16||Valencia 17|
|20||Anke Esser||GER||21.05.90||02:43:14||21||Berlin 17|
Gladys Cherono, KEN
Defending champion, Gladys won last year’s race in 2:20:23, 8 seconds ahead of Ruti Aga who will also be racing again this year. It’s been a while since her she set her 2015 PB on this course just after she debuted earlier that year in Dubai as the third fastest women’s debut of all time. I’m not sure she’s currently on the form of previous years as she only ran 2:24:10 to place 4th at London Marathon in April. Yes, that was in unusually hot (MarathonTalk listeners - that’s warm to you!!) weather for the UK but add that to the fact that she also finished a minute off her Half Marathon PB in February on the same course she set it on in Ras Al Khaimah (UAE) (so a good like-for-like) and it seems like maybe she’s not quite at peak. However, if she can work together with compatriot Edna Kiplagat, she may stand a chance and we shouldn’t ignore the fact that she’s coached by Gabriele Nicola who also works with World Record holder (women only) Mary Keitany. Oh, and did you know that she’s employed by the Kenyan army? Nope… neither did I until now!
Tirunesh Dibaba, ETH
Dibaba seems to be the favourite of most previews I’ve read so far and understandably so. She has three Olympic and five World Championship gold medals for 10k and 5k on the track as well as five in the World XC champs race. That’s all very nice but you and I know that’s not the same as racing a marathon, right? Oh yeah, she also holds third fastest women’s marathon time in history which she set at London in 2017, 50s behind Keitany when she set the new women- only WR . This will be her first time racing Berlin Marathon. She dropped out in London this year after Keitany went out at super-fast pace so we’ve not got any form to look at, but given that she’s the favourite and there’s not Keitany this time, perhaps she’ll be looking to control the pace from the start. It certainly sounds from her pre-race chat like she’s gunning for something speedy. Allegedly she’s looking to take on Paula Radcliffe’s WR (see here)
Aselefech Mergia, ETH
Retrospectively confirmed as the winner of the 2010 London Marathon after the top two were disqualified, she came 3rd there in 2017. She then switched to run Boston as her major earlier this year but was one of the 9 who DNF’d from the 16 strong women’s elite field. Despite having a sub 2:20 PB, her recent form including a 1:09:45 half in June suggests she’s not likely to trouble the top of the podium.
Edna Kiplagat, KEN
The last of the sub 2:20’ers in the list, we’d expect to see Kiplagat working together with Gladys Cherono to keep the Ethiopian trio in check. With 20 career marathons and 5 wins at a Major (ref: LetsRun.com) she has plenty of experience to draw on. This might have come in handy in the tough conditions of Berlin last year, indeed she DID finish Boston (9th) this year and won it the year before, but is she too old (ooh 38…) to be worrying anyone over a fast flat course like Berlin? a 1:13:56 half in Japan in Feb doesn’t shout super-fast either.
Fun facts about her according to Wikipedia - she’s a policewoman back in Kenya, has a foundation to raise awareness of breast cancer and volunteers to “create awareness for garbage management toward keeping a clean environment”.
Ruti Aga, ETH
At 24 she’s one of the younger elites, so could be interesting to watch. She smashed her half marathon PB in Houston, TX earlier in the year and has run Berlin in 16 (2:24:41) and 17 (2:20:41) so I guess she’ll be looking to use her knowledge of the course to pull that time down even further. Another 4 minutes? Unlikely, but who knows?
Mizuki Matsuda, JPN
Top of the non-African contingent. LetsRun.com notes that she @made a very impressive debut in Osaka in January, running a 2:22:44 that featured a sizeable negative split (71:59/70:45) So whilst she has minimal experience either the marathon or the half (JPN 2016 & CZE 2015) this is the kind of person who I think could come out of the blue and surprise everyone. It doesn’t usually happen like that at Berlin because of the pacers and the type of course but I can always hope and with 3 other Japanese runners in the field perhaps she’ll have some help.
A year ago I had a stress fracture in my foot. A year later and hard work on my body comp has been full of learning. Positive anthro results now and BIG thanks to the IST @CSIONTARIO and @Speedriver for being so supportive! ❤️ On to @berlinmarathon 😊 pic.twitter.com/y3yvDsc5vW— Rachel Hannah (@RachelHannahRD) August 29, 2018
Rachel Hannah, Lyndsay Tessler, Rachel Cliff and Sasha Gollish, CAN
(Partly for you, TheHareRuns) As Canadian Running Magazine points out, Canada is extremely well represented in the elite field and is matched only by Japan for numbers. Rachel Cliff is the Canadian Half marathon record holder and makes her marathon debut, as does Sasha Gollish.
Rachel Hannah has worked her way back from a stress fracture to make the start line and has trained with Krista Duchene recently.
Anke Esser, GER
The only home-town athlete in the lineup, this is her second year running Berlin and her second only marathon. Last year she placed 22nd.
Dawn Grunnagle and Caitlin Phillips, USA
A New Yorker with a full time job, Nike athlete Caitlin Phillips (follow on Strava here) is aiming to run a 2:35 and get an Olympic Trials ‘A’ standard qualifying time at Berlin. She’s made her goal quite clear, so here’s a big ‘go get it’ from me to her! Grunnagle is also a Nike athlete and has already qualified (B) for the 2020 trials with a 2:41:04 in 2017 but will be looking to improve and gain an ‘A’ category place at Berlin.
Ann-Marie McGlynn, IRL
No GB athletes in the list this year (Lily, Charlotte, Tracy and Sonia were over in Berlin for the Euro champs only a month ago) but Ireland’s Ann-Marie McGlynn will be making her marathon debut. She trains with Thames Valley Harriers in and took part in the Night of 10000m PBs in May, running 33:53 - 37s off her PB). She’s only run Irish half marathons but has seen a good improvement recently, running 74:28 in Omagh in April.