This years Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON will once again be Germanys big season
opener. Running gets more and more popular in Germany – and this is also
proved by the development of the by far biggest half marathon in this country.
With altogether probably around 17,500 starters the 23rd edition of this
traditional race has once more grown substantially. And the Bewag BERLIN HALF
MARATHON is well on the way to become a sort of brother of the real,- BERLIN
MARATHON, which takes place on the last Sunday of September. The two
prestigious races are both organized by the same people from SCC-RUNNING.
Berlins mass field is much more impressive than just a few years ago.
Already two years ago the participation was up around 150 per cent compared to
1999. For the first time more than 10,000 athletes competed in the half
marathon, among them as usual inline skaters, wheel chair athletes and power
walkers. Last year this figure was up to 13,419 athletes from 55 nations. And
if you add those participants who ran the FUN RUN the whole figure was 14,709.
So with around 17,500 participants from 65 nations the impressive development
will be continued. It is just five years ago that the total number was little
more than 3,500.
So it was during the last three years that the interest in the Bewag BERLIN
HALF MARATHON grew strongly. And it was in those years as well that the race
produced some brilliant results. It is just two years ago that Fabián
Roncero broke the European record in Berlin. As the tenth runner in history the
Spaniard broke the hour for the distance of exactly 21,0975 k. On the flat
course Fabián Roncero ran 59:52 minutes in almost perfect conditions. He
beat the course record, which was set by German runner Carsten Eich in 1993.
Eichs 60:34 minutes had been a European record as well ten years ago. And the
mark still stands as the national record of Germany. Two years ago
Fabián Roncero left behind Titus Munji and Rodgers Rop. The two Kenyans
also ran first class times below 61 minutes.
It was Rodgers Rop, whose career had begun during these weeks in spring
2001. Few weeks after his great race in the Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON the
Kenyan came back to Berlin to beat a world best. Rop won Berlins traditional 25
k race in 1:13:14 hours – that still stands as the world best. Of course
the 25 k don play a major role in todays athletics, because it is the half
marathon that matters internationally. But last year Rodgers Rop went on to
celebrate two stunning victories. The Kenyan made himself famous by winning the
Boston Marathon in April. Boston has always been a Kenyan stronghold –
and winners from Boston become heroes in Kenya. But that was not the only
triumph for Rodgers Rop last year. Having finished third in the New York
Marathon in 2001 he came back last November and won the race. Rodgers Rop was
only the fourth runner in history who won both races in Boston and New York
within the same year. As the major test for Boston on 21st April the
29-year-old Kenyan will run the Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON on Sunday.
One of Rodger Rops even more successful teammates will run the Bewag BERLIN
HALF MARATHON as well: Joyce Chepchumba. The 32-year-old Kenyan is a familiar
face on the podium of the Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON. One of the best of
Kenyans women runners is the only women to have won Germanys biggest half
marathon three times in a row. In 2001 she completed her hat trick. A year
before Joyce Chepchumba had run the Berlin course record of 68:22 minutes,
which still stands today. But if weather permits and Joyce Chepchumba comes in
good form the record might well fall.
In an extremely successive road running career Joyce Chepchumba took the
bronze medal in the Olympic marathon in 2000. Before she had won the London
Marathon and Chicago Marathon twice. And last year she was the womens champion
of the New York Marathon. Tokio was another of the major marathons she has won
so far. Boston is still missing – but this is where she will go next
after the Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON. Berlin will be her major test before the
classic race in America.
The background of Rodgers Rop and Joyce Chepchumba is a similar one. Both
runners belong to the training group of the German manager Volker Wagner. So
they live and train partly in Detmold, where a number of other Kenyan athletes
are among their training partners. The most prominent one is of course Tegla
Loroupe. Loroupe set a world record in the BERLIN MARATHON in 1999 running
2:20:43 and came in second in 2001.
Magdaline Chemjor will probably be Joyce Chepchumbas strongest rival on
Sunday. The Kenyan has won the 25 k of Berlin for the last two years and
recently showed she is in great form. Last weekend she finished fifth in the
World Cross Country Championships (long distance). And Chemjor was the best
Kenyan in the field. A close race could develop once more among the men. The
well known athletes manager Dr. Gabriele Rosa will sends Paul Kirui and James
Kwambai (both from Kenya) to Berlin, knowing about the very fast course in the
German capital. Last year the Italian manager had sent the winner: Peter
Chebet. But this year the field will be as strong as never before. Nine
athletes have run the distance sub 62 minutes. It will be a surprise if the
winners on Sunday will not come from Kenya.
But you never know. One of the biggest surprises the European Championships
in Munich produced last summer was the marathon. Probably no one would have
thought about a Finnish winner before. But Janne Holmen surprised everyone with
his brave solo. Exactly 30 years after Lasse Viren had won the 5,000 and 10,000
metres in the Olympics, Finland got another winner in the same stadium. Jane
Holmen, who ran 2:12:14 hours in Munich, will now run the Bewag BERLIN HALF