Two Kenyan youngsters stole the show and dominated the 31st edition of the Vattenfall BERLIN HALF MARATHON on Sunday. In warm temperatures of close to 20° Celsius in the shade and a slight wind, the IAAF’s World Junior Cross Country Champion Geoffrey Kipsang won the race in 60:38 minutes. Valentine Kipketer was the surprise women’s winner with 70:12. Both champions are just 18 years old. Organisers registered a record number of 25,500 runners for the event. Adding other competitions the total entry figure was 28,869 from 102 nations.
“These are the two greatest wins of my career so far,” said Geoffrey Kipsang, who had taken the world cross country title only two weeks earlier. “I didn’t mind the warm weather, but because of this the overall pace was a bit too slow.” While originally a finishing time of sub 60 minutes was the target, this goal was soon beyond reach. At the 10 k mark the leading group was off the pace with 28:47 minutes.
When I saw the clock after 15 k I knew that we wouldn’t achieve a sub-one hour time. So I went for the win and pushed the pace,” said Geoffrey Kipsang, who increased the pace decisively from around 17 k and drew away from the leading group. In the end he was well clear of fellow Kenyans Eliud Kiplagat (60:52) and Daniel Chebii (60:56). Paul Kipkorir (61:11), Kiplimo Kimutai (61:16) and Megersa Bacha (Ethiopia/61:33) took the next places.
Surprisingly it was Valentine Kipketer, who took the lead right from the start in the women’s race. The 18 year-old was running her first race outside of Africa and had only once run a half marathon before. That was in Moshi (Tanzania), where she won the race in 74:58 minutes, held at high altitude at the end of February. Now she suddenly found herself on the way to winning one of the world’s major half marathons. It came about, in part, because the big favourite Sabrina Mockenhaupt dropped out after 12 k. Prior to that she was in second place behind Kipketer and had run a pace which could have brought her a personal best (68:45). “It was simply not my day today. Somehow I had a blackout and nothing worked,” said the 30 year-old.
Although Valentine Kipketer was not able to maintain her fast pace (32:33 for 10 k) during the second half of the race there was no way she was going to lose her grip on the title. With a finishing time of 70:12 minutes she was well ahead of Fate Tola (Ethiopia/71:40) and Sonia Samuels (Great Britain/72:56). Andrea Mayr (Austria/73:22) and Agnieszka Gortel (Poland/74:57) placed fourth and fifth. “I would never have expected to win my first major international race,” said Valentine Kipketer. „But I knew that I was in good shape since I had trained well in Eldoret.“