Matthias Kern - Bongarts/Getty Images
Geoffrey Mutai won Sunday's Berlin Marathon in 2:04:15, nearly missing the world record. And that's when the controversy stared.
Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai won the 2012 Berlin Marathon on Sunday, finishing in a time of 2:04:15. Mutai missed the world record, set by Patrick Makau at Berlin in 2011, by just 37 seconds (2:03:38). It's worth mentioning that Mutai ran a 2:03:02 at Boston last year, but that is not a recognized course because it's point-to-point and has a negative elevation.
For Mutai, the win establishes him as one of the best marathoners in recent history -- he has now won Boston, New York City and Sunday's Berlin race, giving him victories in three of the five major marathons (Chicago and London the other two).
Sunday's race was not without some controversy, however, particularly the finish. Mutai came through the Brandenburg Gate side-by-side with fellow Kenyan and training partner Dennis Kimetto. But when a sprint for the tape was expected, neither attacked -- indeed, to some it looked like Kimetto let Mutai win, perhaps because of a pre-determined agreement between the two. Of course, both runners could have simply been exhausted after chasing Makau's world record mark. The Science Of Sports has more on that.
In the aftermath of the race, there's been a good deal of discussion about the finish. As mentioned, Mutai and Kimetto hit the Brandenburg Gate locked together, Mutai slightly ahead, as they had been for pretty much 42km. Over the final 200m, that did not change, and there seemed to be no attempt to change that from Kimetto, and no attempt from Mutai to seal the win with any kind of sprint. A few commentators have remarked at their surprise at the lack of a sprint, and I must confess it was an anti-climactic finish for a head-to-head race, leading me to side with those saying it was "pre-planned".
And as the video shows, the final few meters was anything but a "race":
Many, including those at Let's Run, seem rather upset by this, even going so far as to say, "The integrity of our sport is at stake." I wouldn't go quite that far.
It's unfortunate, sure, if true. As fans of sport, you always want to see athletes "give 110%" and "not give up until the bitter end" or some other cliche. But I just don't see the harm in teammates making an agreement before a race -- it happens a lot in cycling and it even occurs in triathlon. Moreover, these two train on a daily basis -- it's possible that Kimetto made this arrangement because he already knew he could not beat Mutai in a sprint, right?
But what say you? Is the integrity of the sport being challenged if Kimetto did in fact let Mutain win?