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Roncero’s perfect test for Rotterdam

Spaniard breaks national record with 59:52 in Berlin’s half marathon / Joyce Chepchumba runs 69:37 in preparation for London


Berlin’s half marathon is closing the gap to the high-class Berlin Marathon in both, quantity and quality. The half marathon, which has its roots in the eastern and western parts of the once divided city (the former “Friedenslauf” of the GDR and a half marathon in West Berlin merged together in 1990) and has the same organisation as the marathon, saw its best race so far today. As the tenth runner in history Fabián Roncero broke the hour for the distance of exactly 21,0975 k. On a flat course in almost perfect conditions the Spaniard ran 59:52 minutes, clearly achieving his goal: the Spanish record. Martin Fiz had run 61:08 in Grevenmacher in 1996, while Roncero’s best time was just slightly slower. He had won the Liverpool half marathon in 61:12 last year. Today he left behind Titus Munji and Rodgers Rop. The two Kenyans also ran first class times with 60:27 and 60:57.

While for Roncero it was the perfect test for the Rotterdam marathon in three weeks, Joyce Chepchumba was not quite satisfied with her major test before running London also in three weeks. The Kenyan Olympic marathon bronze medallist in the marathon won the Berlin half marathon for the third time in a row. But running 69:37 minutes Chepchumba clearly missed her course record which she set last year (68:22).

Meanwhile Berlin’s mass field also gets more impressive than a few years ago. The participation is up around 150 per cent compared to two years ago. For the first time more than 10,000 athletes competed in the half marathon, among them inline skaters, wheel chairs and power walkers. 8,443 runners took part. Among them Fabián Roncero who set the highlight, but whose day had begun with a shock. Checking latest Spanish news via video text in his hotel room, he learnt of the death of Diego Garcia just hours before his race. “We wanted to keep that away from him until after the race. But he read it. It was a shock for him but he had to focus on the race”, his manager Jose Alonso Valero explained. Garcia had collapsed and died during a training session on Saturday in Spain. “Fabián used to meet him with the national team, otherwise they had no contact. But Garcia was a well accepted person”, Valero said.

The terrible news did not affect Fabián Roncero during his race through the city centre of Berlin. And he was strong enough to end the African win streak in Berlin’s half marathon that had begun in 1994. After split times of 14:27 and 28:56 for 5 and 10 k Roncero began to push the pace strongly. “It was the plan not to push to hard during the first half of the race”, Roncero explained later. While there was a ten men leading group in the first part of the race, there were soon only two contenders left for Roncero: Munji and Rop, who had won the City-Pier-City recently and who belongs to Volker Wagner’s training group in Detmold. The training partner of Joyce Chepchumba and Tegla Loroupe was the next one who could not stand the pace (42:51 for 15 k). At 16 k only Munji was left with Roncero. “I intended to run away in the last kilometre , but then I noticed that he did not look that fresh any more”, Roncero said. Once the 30-year-old Spaniard pushed again, Munji was beaten. “It helped me a lot that the two were running together with me for so long, because they did a lot of work”, Roncero said. He had splits of around 2:45 minutes per kilometre for the last 5 k.

Roncero’s time was also a course record, and for the first time the Berlin half marathon was the venue for a season’s best. Additionally Fabián Roncero missed the European best time by António Pinto (Portugal) by only nine seconds. Pinto had run 59:43 in Lisbon in 1998. At least Roncero now holds a European best for a loop course. “He knew that he might have been able to break Pinto’s time, but he did not want to run that fast in the beginning. In the end that was the test for Rotterdam. The marathon is his main goal. He wants to win it and if possible run a new personnel best”, Valero said. Roncero ran his marathon best in Rotterdam in 1999 (2:07:23).

Running her own race right from the start Joyce Chepchumba was never in any danger not to win. Running the first 5 k in 16:05 showed what she had planned to do. The 30-year-old Kenyan was chasing a new personnel best (68:18) and a sub 68 minute time. But at 10 k she had clearly slowed down (32:46). “I wanted to run faster but I could not stand the pace. “There are no problems. I don’t like to complain when it is not going that well”, Chepchumba, who was running her first road race this year, said. During the last weeks she was doing at least 220 k of training per week for London. “I am optimistic towards London, 69 minutes is quite all right. The opposition will be tough – but I like it if the field has high quality”, Chepchumba said.

After giving birth to her daughter Nele in 1999 Kathrin Weßel ran her first serious race in her hometown Berlin. The former 10,000 m runner finished second behind Chepchumba in 71:09 minutes. “It was obvious that I would not be able to beat Joyce. But I had hoped for a sub 71 minute time”, Weßel said. She will run the Hamburg marathon in three weeks, aiming for a time sub 2:30.

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