As of this morning, Kenya has yet another world-class Half Marathon runner: Bernard Kipyego, the 22-year-old who took the Vattenfall Berlin Half Marathon. Germany’s Sabrina Mockenhaupt won the women’s race with a personal best of 1:08:45.
Running his debut at the distance he clocked a superb 59:34, which is one of the fastest debuts ever over the distance. In another demonstration of Kenyan talent on the Berlin roads, runners from east Africa took the first ten places with three others dipping under one hour times. It was the eighth time in a row that a Kenyan won the men’s contest.
In a dramatic sprint finish Sammy Kosgei took second in 59:36, edging Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich who was third in 59:38. Samuel Gichochi Mwangi was fourth with 59:55. It was the first time that four runners clocked sub-60 minute times in the history of the event.
Conditions were ideal with 13° Centigrade, no rain and only a light breeze to disturb the elite runners. A high-class and thrilling men’s race developed with Kenyan athletes in full control right from the start. A big group of runners passed the 10k point in 28:18. There was no way further for one of the favourites at this point however. Samuel Karanja Karuku (Kenya), who had won Berlin’s 25 k race in 2008, suffered from stomach problems and dropped out.
After that a number of runners lost contact with the lead group, but it was not before the 18k mark that there was a major move at the front. At that point Kipyego, Kosgei and Kiprotich left behind their rivals. Though they ran the remaining kilometres at a 2:45 minute pace, none of the three fell off the pace. Thousands of spectators witnessed a fascinating sprint finish similar to a middle distance race on the track on the long home straight at the Berlin town hall Rotes Rathaus.
Kipyego’s 59:34 is the fifth fastest time of the year so far. He was two seconds ahead of Sammy Kosgei, who had come to Berlin with a personal best of 1:02:54.
Kipyego was ranked among the favourites before the race, even though he had never run a Half Marathon before. Two years ago he achieved an impressive third place at the World Cross Country Championships. In the same year of 2007 he ran a World-class time of 26:59.61 for 10,000m on the track.
“Before the race I thought my chances of winning were 50-50, but my confidence grew as the race went on,” said Kipyego, who hopes his success in Berlin will be rewarded with a place in the Kenyan squad for the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham in October. “On the final part of the race the spectators motivated me a lot.”
During the summer season he will run the 10,000m and then he might run the Great North Half Marathon in September. “Maybe next year I will try the Marathon,” said Kipyego, whose next race will be a 10k in Edinburgh on 3 May.
Commanding victory for Mockenhaupt
Mockenhaupt prevailed in the women’s race with a personal best of 1:08:45, ahead of Kenyans Hellen Kimutai (1:09:27) and Lydia Njeri (1:10:08).
“The course is really fast, but especially in the first part of the race the wind was disturbing me,” said Mockenhaupt, who ran slightly slower than planned in the first part of the race. When she reached the 10Km point in 32:50 there were still two rivals right behind her: Kimutai and Njeri.
“I did not expect that they would be with me for so long, so I was getting nervous. Maybe I am lacking a bit of routine. But I really wanted to win this race,” Mockenhaupt added.
It was shortly before the 15Km point when she finally broke away and then continually increased her lead. At the end Mockenhaupt had improved her personal best by six seconds and established a national season’s lead.
“Lying in bed yesterday evening I thought that running a personal best will not be an easy target. 1:08:51 was not bad,” said the 28 year-old winner, who intends to qualify for the World Championships in Berlin at 10,000m. “After this race today I have no worries regarding the qualification time of 31:45. I am well on my way.”
21,725 runners from 85 countries entered the 29th edition of the race. A record number of 17,888 athletes finished. 170,000 spectators lined the streets in the city centre.
Jörg Wenig (With assistance by Andy Edwards) for the IAAF
Leading Results -
1. Bernard Kipyego KEN 59:34
2. Sammy Kosgei KEN 59:36
3. Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich KEN 59:38
4. Samuel Gichochi Mwangi KEN 59:55
5. Joseph Kiptoo KEN 60:13
6. Wilson Kiprop KEN 60:34
7. Peter Kamais KEN 60:35
8. Josphat Kamzee KEN 60:43
9. Evans Barkokwet KEN 60:51
10. Edwin Kimaiyo KEN 61:04
11. Tadese Abraham ERI 61:25
12. Gilbert Yegon KEN 61:26
13. Willy Mwangi Kariku KEN 61:27
14. Patrick Ivuti KEN 61:45
1. Sabrina Mockenhaupt GER 68:45
2. Hellen Kimutai KEN 69:27
3. Lydia Njeri KEN 70:08
4. Alice Mogire KEN 72:17
5. Selina Chelimo KEN 73:21