Competing in his first race over the 13.1-mile distance, 21-year-old Berhanu Legese beat the favourites at the Vattenfall Berlin Half Marathon on Sunday (29).
After a thrilling sprint finish that went right to the line, the Ethiopian won in 59:45 to beat Kenya’s David Kosgei by one second. Pre-race favourite Abraham Cheroben was third in 59:49, followed 10 seconds later by fellow Kenyan Richard Mengich.
Cynthia Chepchirchir Kosgei took the women’s race with a big PB of 1:10:52, beating fellow Kenyan Elizeba Cherono by four seconds. Sweden’s Isabellah Andersson finished third in 1:10:56, having led for the first 15km.
While the wind probably didn’t bother the recreational runners, it posed a problem for the elite athletes. There was mostly a head wind for the first half and the split times at 5km and 10km were considerably slower than had been expected, putting the sub-59-minute target time out of reach.
A group of nine runners passed 10km in 28:30, which suggested a finishing time outside 60 minutes. But with more favourable conditions in the second half of the race, the pace soon picked up.
After a 42:40 split time at 15km, the leading group of five men – Legese, Kosgei, Cheroben, Mengich and Kenya’s Abraham Kipyatich – stayed together until the final section of the race. With one kilometre to go, Legese and Kosgei opened up a lead and their thrilling duel continued to the final metre of the race.
“I was confident that I would win, because I know that I have very good speed,” said Legese. “But once we crossed the line, I was not so sure.”
“I am not disappointed at all,” added Kosgei. “It was a great battle for victory.”
Steeplechase specialist Steffen Uliczka was the best German. Competing in his half-marathon debut, he finished 15th with 1:04:16.
In contrast, Arne Gabius had a bad day. The 2012 European 5000m silver medallist suffered from stomach problems. He was forced to take a short pause at 13km and then jogged to the line, finishing in 1:21:18.
In the women’s race, Andersson took the lead shortly after the start. When she passed the 10km point in 33:31, she was nine seconds ahead. But the situation changed over the course of the next five kilometres.
Andersson slowed while Kenyan duo Kosgei and Cherono closed the gap. It was at about the 15km point (50:31) where they finally passed Andersson.
Kosgei then dropped Cherono in the final section of the race, winning in 1:10:52 to improve her PB by more than two minutes.
“I know that Berlin is always a good race,” said the 21-year-old. “So I had not even expected to finish on the podium.”
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF
1 Berhanu Legese (ETH) 59:45
2 David Kosgei (KEN) 59:46
3 Abraham Cheroben (ETH) 59:49
4 Richard Mengich (KEN) 59:59
5 Abraham Kipyatich (KEN) 1:00:03
6 Fentahun Hunegnaw (ETH) 1:00:10
7 Kenneth Kipkemoi (KEN) 1:00:17
8 Emmanuel Ngatuny (KEN) 1:00:58
1 Cynthia Chepchirchir Kosgei (KEN) 1:10:52
2 Elizeba Cherono (KEN) 1:10:56
3 Isabellah Andersson (SWE) 1:11:31
4 Anita Baierl (AUT) 1:13:23
5 Esther Hidalgo (ESP) 1:14:13
6 Maria McCambridge (IRL) 1:14:25
7 Frida Lunden (SWE) 1:15:21
8 Melina Trankle (GER) 1:15:34