Roncero is looking to conquer Berlin course

More than 27,000 runners from 83 countries will take part in tomorrow's Berlin Marathon on a course, renowned as the world's fastest and flattest, which will snake across both sides of the formerly divided German capital.

More than 27,000 runners from 83 countries will take part in tomorrow's Berlin Marathon on a course, renowned as the world's fastest and flattest, which will snake across both sides of the formerly divided German capital.

Organisers say they expect a carnival atmosphere. "We haven't had such huge demand to enter the race since the first race after the Berlin Wall fell 10 years ago," the race director, Horst Milde, said.

The field, one of the largest to be assembled for a marathon, will be boosted to around 34,000 by the entry of 6,500 in-line skaters.

Many of the world's best distance runners will miss the event because of the Olympic Games but organisers still expect fast winning times. The 1999 men's winner, Josephat Kiprono, ran the third fastest marathon ever run at the time - 2hr 6min 45sec. A year earlier Ronaldo da Costa of Brazil set the world's fastest marathon time here in 2:06:05, a record that stood until it was broken by Khalid Kahnnouchi in the Chicago marathon.

Berlin is the world's third largest marathon after London and New York but its standing as the fastest course has made it an attractive race for élite runners. Fabian Roncero of Spain, whose best time is 2:07:23, is the men's favourite, while the Italian Franca Fiacconi, who has run a 2:25:17 marathon, looks set to win the women's event.

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