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The History of the Berlin Half Marathon

The story of the Berlin Half Marathon reflects a major part of the history of the German capital. It all began during cold war times and continued during reunification. The events leading up to today's event could really only have happened in this city. Its predecessors came from East- and West Berlin.

On 29th November 1981 the Lichtenberg Marathon was staged in East-Berlin. It was the first real city race in the capital of East Germany. This race was one year later succeeded by the "Berliner Friedenslauf" (Berlin Peace Run), which covered various distances up to a marathon. The Friedenslauf was the biggest road race in the former GDR. While in former years the East German government had shown no interest in city races, that attitude changed, when big and spectacular city races developed in western countries. Races like the New York City Marathon or the BERLIN MARATHON in the western part of the city were successful. So the government decided that it would be good to have a big race as well – and as usual in those times it was dedicated to peace. For the runners the motto did not matter. They were just happy to finally get what they had asked for for many years.

It was stated by the government of the former GDR that up to 70,000 runners participated in the Friedenslauf. This was the figure announced in 1985, when the race took place during the 90th session of the IOC in East Berlin. The "Berliner Friedenslauf" was of course used for propaganda by the government of the GDR. So we will never know the real number of runners from former years. But there were some quite enormous fields. The "Friedenslauf" had no half marathon distance, but a 20 k race, which attracted a maximum of about 6,500 participants. On 2nd September 1984 the Berlin Half Marathon was launched in West Berlin. Already at this time it was organized by SC Charlottenburg and was designed to be the final test for the BERLIN MARATHON, which took place four weeks later. The race had only local character. There were never more than about 1,800 runners. Still among the winners was for example Kerstin Preßler. The Berlin runner was an international athlete who even won the BERLIN MARATHON once.

After the wall came down in 1989 and the political system of the GDR had collapsed the support for the "Berliner Friedenslauf" was gone as well. So the former organiser Stefan Senkel had to quickly find a new partner to save his race. The SCC-RUNNING, the organiser of the BERLIN MARATHON, joined in. And the traditional "Berliner Friedenslauf" suddenly had a bright new future. For some time the name "Berliner Friedenslauf" was kept besides the new title of the event: Berlin Half Marathon. Already in 1990 the organisers from east and west had agreed on one distance: the half marathon. Horst Milde had well in mind that it was the 21.0975 k which had a prosperous future. After having declining numbers of participants for some years, the race has meanwhile developed very well. And it also saw some great results. Carsten Eich's (Leipzig) winning time of 60:34 minutes in 1993 was a European record at that time. Joyce Chepchumba (Kenya) won the women's race in a superb 68:22 in 2000, which still is the course record. It was in 2001 when Fabián Roncerobeat the hour. The Spaniard set a new European record of 59:52 minutes on the fast course. It was the only sub 60 minute time of that year and Roncero became one of just a couple of athletes who have broken the hour. On top of that the race had more than 10,000 entries for the half marathon distance. And it continued to develop strongly. In the following two years there were more than 17,000 entries altogether. Among them were runners, skaters, wheelchair athletes, handbikers, walkers and of course the participants of the Vattenfall FUN RUN. This 3.5 k race is for designed for beginners and school children. The Berlin Half Marathon is well on the way to become a race with a similar reputation as the BMW BERLIN MARATHON.

  • Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON 2005

    A record entry of 18,331 athletes and a record number of 150,000 spectators set the scene for a great jubilee edition of the 25th Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON. Kenyan Paul Kimugul ran the second fastest time of the year to continue Kenya's win streak. The 24 year-old Kenyan clocked 61:04 minutes on the flat city course in perfect weather conditions. Kimugul was followed by nine countrymen, and it was the second time in a row that the Kenyans took the first ten places in Germany's biggest and best quality half marathon event. While it was the fourth win in a row at the event for Kenyan men in the women's race the Kenyan win streak came to an end. Kenyan women had won the race six times in a row. Luminita Zaituc of Germany became the first national winner of the event since 1994. In that year Kathrin Weßel had won the race in 70:47 minutes. The record number of 18,331 participants had come from 69 countries. Among them were 15,057 runners, 1,642 skaters, 205 walkers, 10 handbikers and 7 wheelchair athletes. Additionally 1,047 runners took part in the Vattenfall FUN RUN of 3.5 k and 363 children started in a kids' race.

  • Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON 2006

    The best ever Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON was crowned by superb winning times in its 26th edition. While Paul Kosgei clocked 59:07 Edith Masai (both Kenya) won the race in a world leading 67:16. She beat Deena Kastor (USA) by 18 seconds. A record number of altogether 20,419 athletes participated in the race. Among them were 16,652 half marathon runners, 1,672 inline skaters and 14 wheelchair and handbike athletes. 2,081 athletes participated in other events. About 150,000 spectators lined the streets in almost perfect weather conditions. Kenya's Paul Kosgei clocked 59:07 minutes to set a brilliant new course record. Disregarding courses that do not meet the standards for records this was the second fastest time ever run and a Kenyan record as well. Only Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) had ever run faster at that time. He clocked 58:55 minutes in the same year. Kenyans took the first eleven places in the Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON. They have now won this race five times in a row. There were more records and a surprise in the women's race. Pre race favourite Deena Kastor (USA) was beaten by Edith Masai. The Kenyan, three times World Cross Country Champion,clocked a world leading 67:16 minutes. Referring to the above mentioned standards this was the fifth fastest time in history. Berlin's race director Mark Milde had more records in mind when he positioned official timekeepers at four more spots on the course: 12 k, 15 k, 10 miles and 20 k. That worked fine since Masai tied the national record for 12 k (38:23) and broke the Kenyan 20 k record with 63:52 minutes. Additionally Paul Kosgei passed the 20 k mark in 56:05 which is another Kenyan record. But there were even more national records for Deena Kastor in Berlin on Sunday: The Olympic marathon bronze medallist from Athens 2004 passed 12 k in 38:24, 10 miles in 51:31 and 20 k in 64:07 before she finished in a North American record of 67:34. She improved her old half marathon mark by 19 seconds.

  • Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON 2007

    Kenya's Patrick Makau Musyoki crowned the 27th edition of the Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON with a new course record of 58:56 minutes. The 22 year-old improved the one year-old record of his countryman Paul Kosgei by eleven seconds and set the fourth fastest time ever in the half marathon. Francis Kibiwott took second in 59:26 while Evans Cheruiyot (both Kenya) was third with 59:48. Fourth was the Ethiopian Eshetu Wondimu in 60:08 minutes.
    In the women's race Australian Benita Johnson won in 68:28 minutes. She was ahead of Irina Mikitenko (69:46) while another German, Luminita Zaituc, took third in 71:56. Defending champion Edith Masai (Kenya) had to be content with fourth place, clocking 72:03. Both Zaituc and Masai suffered of stomach problems.

  • Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON 2008

    Once again the Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON has produced top-class winning times. The 28th edition of the race also ended in a victorious Kenyan double. The defending champion Patrick Makau Musyoki won the biggest and most prestigious German race over 21.0975 km in exactly 60 minutes. Beaten in the tightest of finishes was Eshetu Wondimu (Ethiopia) who crossed the finish line besides the city's Red Town Hall a second behind. The women's winner Peninah Arusei achieved the third fastest time in the world this year with 68:22 and the third fastest performance in the history of the race.

    Taking into account all forms of competition, the 28th edition of the Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON had a record number of 24,551 athletes from 86 nations entered. For the first time a German half-marathon had over 20,000 entries (20,660). Inline skaters, handbikers, wheelchair competitors, power walkers and those entering the 3.5 km Fun Run completed the field. Despite cool weather conditions, over 150,000 spectators lined the streets to support the race.

  • Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON 2009

    The winners of he 29th Vattenfall BERLINER HALBMARATHON were Kenyan Bernard Kipyego in a world class effort of 59:34 minutes in his first try at the distance and Sabrina Mockenhaupt from Cologne who clocked a personal best running 68:45 minutes. 25.193 participants from 85 nations registered for the race, of which 21.725 were running the main distance – a record number so far. Weather conditions were ideal with 13 degrees Celsius with the wind blowing very slightly from the west.

  • Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON 2010

    More than 27,000 entries including all events are a new record mark for the biggest half marathon in Germany. 23,799 runners registered for the half marathon alone. Headwinds lead to a more tactical race of the leading group which came down to three runners batteling it out on the last kilometers. Finally Ethiopian Eshetu Wondimu was a clear winner over Peter Kirui from Kenya and Maregu Zewdie (Ethiopia). In the women´s race Pasalia Kipkoech beat Eunice Kales (both Kenya) on the home stretch. German runner Sabrina Mockenhaupt ended up on 3rd place.

  • Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON 2011

    For the first time in the history of this event the Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON was sold out before the official deadline. Because of road constructions and because the event had grown bigger every year the start and finish area returned back to the roots on Karl-Marx-Allee where the event had it´s origin in 1981. Inline skaters and Bambini runners included 28,869 participants were registered for a new record number. Two youngsters from Kenya dominated the men´s and the women´s race. Geoffrey Kipsang and Valentine Kipketer, both 18 years old, won the race in a dominant way. Temperatures reaching 23 degrees Celsius were not so favourable for fast times.

  • Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON 2012

    Five men under one hour

    Two and a half months ahead of the event the Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON was sold out – earlier than ever before. 29,246 runners had registered, and together with the inline skaters and the Bambini Run more than 31,700 participants were counted. Favourable weather conditions (sunny and cool temperatures) helped in reaching very good results. Five men finished under one hour making this event again one of the major half marathons in the world. Dennis Kimetto outsprinted world champion Wilson Kiprop (both Kenya) 59:14 to 59:15 min. In the women´s race Philes Ongori won over Helah Kiprop (both Kenya) 1:08:25 to 1:08:26.

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