We spoke with Driss El Himer,
the top European challenger in the real,-Berlin Marathon 2005 :
What are your ambitions in
racing here in Berlin?
Driss El Himer: My main
objective is to win! But I also want to break the European record
(2:06:36 held jointly by Antonio Pinto of Portugal and Benoit
Zwierzchiewski of France), especially because it is also the French
(Driss’ best is 2:06:48, achieved in
finishing 4th in Paris, 2003)
The weather forecast suggests
that it might be around 20 degrees Celsius on Sunday morning. Would that kind
of temperature be a problem for you?
Driss El Himer: For me, the
ideal weather conditions for a marathon would be 10 degrees, maybe even 15. But
20 degrees is not too bad, so I don’t mind.
Have you seen the course for
yourself and do you know that it’s supposed to be very fast?
Driss El Himer: I haven’t seen
much of the course but I know that it’s very flat and that is fast.
Whom do you consider as your
Driss El Himer: I think that
Michael Rotich of Kenya (the fastest man in the field with his time of
2:06:33 in winning in Paris, 2003) will be the main rival, though I
shall have to watch out for
several of the Kenyans. But Rotich is the one I plan to keep a special
Do you have a particular
Driss El Himer: The race
director has set up a pace maker to take the lead group through halfway in 63
minutes. I plan to be in that leading group. Wherever Rotich goes, I will be
Do you plan to attack at a
Driss El Himer: If the
pacemaker takes us to 30 kms, then I think I’ll attack sometime after that, but
You were born in Morocco but now have French citizenship after serving in the
French Foreign Legion. How did that come about?
Driss El Himer: I was in the
Moroccan junior team that ran in the World Cross-Country Championships at
Amorebieta in Spain in 1993. I was 18 then. By chance I met a general
from the Legion who was at the prize-giving, Christian Piquemal. He was very
keen on sport, he had a cousin who was French national cross-country champion.
He was trying to build up the sports teams of the Legion and suggested I join.
So I did and several other Moroccans followed, including Mohammed Ouadi, but I
was the first.
Did that mean you received
French citizenship straightaway, or was it after your time in the Legion?
Driss El Himer: I became a
French citizenship after three years in the Legion, that’s the normal
I was stationed at Aubagne and Marseilles, but now my wife and I live
in Strasbourg. (Driss left the Legion in 2001 after serving his
statutory five years)
We didn’t see much of you in
competition this year. Why was that?
Driss El Himer: I was injured
for three months, had a tear in my right hamstring and couldn’t run. Otherwise
I would have run the Rotterdam marathon in April. I ran in the Olympics but didn’t
do well (68th in 2:29:07) but Athens was very tough, it was so hot!
Now you’ve recovered, where
have you been preparing for Berlin?
Driss El Himer: At home in France, including altitude training at Font Romeu. I’ve been
running up to 220 kms per week, feel very fit and ready to race.