Paul Kimugul made up for missing the World Cross-Championships by winning the Berlin Half-marathon in the second fastest performance of the year on Sunday (April 3). The Kenyan won in 1:01:04, beating his compatriot Joseph Ngolepus by 12 seconds with Moses Kigen a distant third, 35 seconds adrift of the winner. But in the women´s race Luminita Zaituc ended the Kenyan dominance with a home victory in 1:11:04, the first time in six years that Kenyans had not enjoyed a double success.
The rise in quality and numbers continues in this Berlin event, following the rise of the real,-Berlin marathon as one of the top distance races in the world. From barely more than 3,000 entries a handful of years ago, the participants have risen fivefold. Flat and fast, the course for both half and full marathon is ideal for those intent on setting personal bests, including world records, as Paul Tergat´s 2:04:55 for the marathon in September 2003 proved.
In sunny conditions with little wind and the temperature around 18 degrees, a record entry of over 18,000 went to the start line on the elegant avenue of Unter den Linden in the heart of Berlin. South Korea´s 1996 Olympic marathon silver medallist, Lee Bong-ju, slipped back shortly after 5 kilometres, leaving the Kenyans to contest the honours. For much of the race they were on course to break this year´s world best of 1:00:45, set by James Kwambai of Kenya in Osaka in February. But as the lead group was reduced to three, the tempo slackened crucially.
The earlier splits were certainly encouraging thoughts of a world best performance : the leading men went through 5kms in 14:26, a group predictably dominated by Kenyans with Elius Tanui taking most of the pacemaking duties. The second fastest man ever over the half-marathon distance, Patrick Ivuti, was in the main pack but usually near the back, a sign perhaps that he wasn´t yet in top shape after a leg strain.
At 15kms the clock showed 43:07 for the leading men. Ernest Kipyego was the latest to drop off the pace, so now it was down to three, all Kenyans : Kimugul, Ngolepus and Kigen.
The trio knew each other´s strengths and weaknesses thanks to recent races in Europe, and it was Kigen who was regarded as the main threat.
“I was worried about the finishing kick of Moses, so I decided to hold back a little,” admitted the eventual winner, Paul Kimugul. Joseph Ngolepus, winner of the real,-Berlin marathon 2001, also confessed to concern about Kigen´s finishing abilities. But by 18 kilometres it was Kigen who was being dropped. Kimugul, forced to miss the World Cross-Country Championships last month because of injury, surged ahead for victory. He will now concentrate on preparations for the track and securing a place in the Kenyan team at 10,000 metres for the World Championships in Helsinki in August.
Paul Kimugul´s ambition is clear : “I wanted to run the World Cross because I thought I could beat Bekele.” Despite the Ethiopian winning the double in France for a remarkable fourth consecutive time, Kimugul is adamant that he believes he can beat anyone : “I shall prepare for the track and especially the 10,000 metres because I think I can win.”
The late withdrawal of former winner Joyce Chepchumba certainly boosted the prospects of Luminita Zaituc. She and South Korea`s Lee Eun-Jeong renewed acquaintance, having finished 18th and 19th respectively in the Olympic marathon in Athens. Zaituc, the European silver medallist for the marathon in 2002, was back in form after recent uncertainty.
On March 13 she won the national half-marathon title in snowy conditions in Ohrdruf in Eastern Germany. Five weeks of warm weather training in Spain went well, but since then she´d been short of her best, highlighted by only fourth place over 10kms in Paderborn four days before Berlin.
Perhaps the spring sunshine awakened memories of those training sessions in Spain, because Zaituc was in relaxed control throughout.
She broke clear in the final kilometre to in 1:11:04 but Lee had the satisfaction of a South Korean national record in 1:11:15 while Beatrice Omwanza of Kenya took third in 1:11:18.
Despite breaking a national record, Lee Eun-Jeong doesn´t know if she will be going to Helsinki for the World Championships in August. Though qualified for the marathon team, she and her team-mates´destiny is in the hands of the South Korean Federation. They have still to decided whether to send a team to Finland.
Bewag Berlin Half-Marathon, Sunday, April 3, 2005
1. Paul Kimugul (Kenya) – 1:01:04
2. Joseph Ngolepus (Kenya) – 1:01:16
3. Moses Kigen (Kenya) – 1:01:39
4. Ernest Kipyego (Kenya) – 1:01:58
5. Christopher Kandie (Kenya) – 1:02:14
6. Charles Ngolepus (Kenya) – 1:02:25
7. Patrick Ivuti (Kenya) – 1:02:34
8. Benjamin Itok (Kenya) – 1:02:45
9. Elijah Sang (Kenya) – 1:02:56
10. Jonathan Kosgei (Kenya) – 1:03:29
1. Luminita Zaituc (Germany) – 1:11:04 (W35)
2. Lee Eun-Jeong (South Korea) – 1:11:15 (National Record)
3. Beatrice Omwanza (Kenya) – 1:11:18
4. Irene Jerotich (Kenya) – 1:12:13
5. Mary Ptikany (Kenya) – 1:12:26
6. Monika Drybulska (Poland) – 1:13:59
7. Michaela Schneider (Germany) - !:14:47
8. Nicole Gueldmeister (Germany) – 1:15:19
9. Monika Schuri (Germany) – 1:16:04 (W35)
10. Edyta Lewandowska (Poland) – 1:17:14
Bewag Berlin Half-Marathon press office
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