For Patrick Makau, a sometime member of Birmingham's Birchfield Harriers, and Paula Radcliffe, the pride and joy of Bedford and County Athletics Club, there were significant barriers surmounted on the streets of Berlin yesterday. Makau overcame not just the challenge of Haile Gebrselassie but also the great Ethiopian's world record time for the marathon – and for good measure, he even hurdled an advertising board before crossing the line in 2hr 3min 38sec, fully 21 seconds inside the world-best Gebrselassie set in the 2008 running of this Berlin Marathon.
Makau is a 26-year-old Kenyan but back in 2006 he was based in Britain, competing on the domestic road-race circuit as a member of the Birchfield club at such events as the Horwich Carnival 5km, the Swansea Bay 10km, the Great East Anglian Run, the Manchester YMCA 10km and the Lake Vyrnwy half-marathon. He even ran in the London Marathon that year, finishing 192nd in 2:39:10.
For Radcliffe, the fastest female marathon runner of all time, there was no record and indeed no triumph in the women's race yesterday. Nevertheless, in making the podium and recording her fastest time for four years, not to mention qualifying for a fifth Olympic Games, the 37-year-old overcame obstacles of her own on the comeback trail.
Returning to the marathon after a two-year absence, Radcliffe proved to herself and to a watching world that, after a seemingly endless run of misfortune with injury and illness, she still has the ability to make her presence felt at the elite level.
Frustrated by a leaking spinal disc and an overactive thyroid gland, Radcliffe had contemplated retirement earlier this year. And yet, with minimal preparation, the former world champion managed to get herself into good enough shape to return with her fastest time over 26.2 miles since she won in New York in 2007 in 2:23:09.
Yesterday, despite dropping off the pace after matching strides with the world half-marathon champion Florence Kiplagat for the opening 10km, Radcliffe maintained her composure sufficiently to take third place in 2:23:46. Kiplagat, completing her first full marathon, won in 2:19:44 to give Kenya another strong Olympic contender to go alongside Mary Keitany, the impressive winner of this year's London race. Germany's Irina Mikitenko finished second in 2:22:18.
For Radcliffe, finishing some seven minutes inside the Olympic qualifying standard set by the British selectors, it was a mission accomplished. With 10 months to go, she has time on her side now to get into condition to challenge the Kenyans and the rest of the world for a place on the podium at the London Olympics.
"I know I can get in a lot better shape for next year," Radcliffe said. "After the year I've had, I should be happy with that but I would have liked to have run faster and I definitely wanted to win the race. I think I probably got a little bit carried away at the beginning.
"At least I have the Olympic qualifying time. It's a weight off my shoulders. Now I have to build on that for London."
Radcliffe was not the only British runner who effectively secured a London Olympic place in Berlin. On his marathon debut, Blackheath's Scott Overall finished fifth in the men's race in 2:10:55, which is 65sec inside the selection standard. Sadly, though, Gebrselassie suffered an asthma attack and dropped out.
Makau toasted his success with a non-alcoholic beer and beamed: "This is the greatest day of my running life. It is a great thing to have beaten Haile's record. He is one of my heroes."Reuse content