Bewag Berlin Half-Marathon Preview

We are well used to stories of how African athletes built their stamina

by daily runs to school and back. But they are not the only ones : Lee

Bong-ju, South Korea’s Olympic silver medalist in the marathon in

Atlanta in 1996, did just the same. Lee, who has Kenya´s Patrick Ivuti,

the second fastest man ever for the distance, among his rivals in the

Berlin Half-Marathon on Sunday (3.4), also grew up covering long

distances. His trip to school was 12 kilometres each way, building a

foundation that led to winning the Boston marathon in 2001 as well as

that epic finish in Atlanta, when South Africa’s Josiah Thugwane denied

him the Olympic title.

Lee is looking for a fast time on Sunday as part of his gradual

build-up for an autumn marathon. Unusually for the Korean, who rarely

races below the marathon distance, he hasn´t chosen to race a spring

marathon. Instead, he’ll go to the start line on the grand avenue of

Unter den Linden for his first half-marathon in ten years. His time of

61:04 is overdue for revision.

Among his rivals is Patrick Ivuti. Only his fellow Kenyan Paul Tergat,

who broke the marathon world record here in September 2003, has run

faster than Ivuti over the half-marathon.”But Paul and I haven’t talked

much about the conditions here, though I do know it’s a fast course.”

That applies as much to the half-marathon : Fabian Roncero set the

course record of 59:52 in 2001 and the Spaniard’s performance remains

the European record. If Ivuti is at his best after a slight leg strain,

a time close to his personal best of 59:45 would add further to

Berlin’s reputation for fast times. Tantalisingly the athlete, who has

also twice finished runner-up in the World Cross-Country Championships,

is giving serious thought to a marathon debut in the autumn. Sunday’s

race may well give him a taste for return for the real,-Berlin marathon

on the last Sunday in September.

In the women’s race, the chances of the home favourite Luminita Zaituc

increased after the withdrawl of Kenya’s Joyce Chepchumba. Zaituc won

the German Half-Marathon title on March 13, while Chepchumba, twice a

winner of the Flora London Marathon, has not been forced to withdraw

because of illness or injury. She is currently at odds with the German

tax authorities, living as she does for much of the year in Germany.

Bewag Berlin Half-Marathon press office

Andy Edwards

Mobile 44 (0) 77 88 745 479