How do you say, “The first time’s a charm” in German? Ask Leonard Patrick Komon, who thrilled fans in Berlin on Sunday, March 30, by running the fastest half-marathon debut of all time.
Komon’s time of 59:14 was short of the world record he’d been gunning for, but it was just enough for the 26-year-old Kenyan to win the Berlin Half-Marathon.
En route to breaking the tape, Komon had to contend with a strong headwind and a fierce down-to-the-wire challenge from countryman Abraham Cheroben, who finished second, despite being credited with the exact same time.
Thanks to an early tailwind, both men—alongside fellow Kenyan Daniel Chebii—cruised through the first 10 kilometers in 27:40. They were on pace for a 58:22 finish—one second faster than the world record set by Zersenay Tadese in 2010.
At 11 kilometers, however, they turned into the wind, and by the time they reached 15 kilometers, Chebii had fallen back, and Komon and Cheroben had dropped to a 58:42 pace.
At that point, with little chance of either man breaking the world record, the race became “about winning,” as LetsRun.com reports.
It was a sprint finish, but in the end, Komon—the world record holder for 10 and 15 kilometers on the road—won out.
“I am happy with my performance in my debut race,” Komon said afterward, according to LetsRun.com. “Of course I ran longer distances in training, but there is always a difference between training and competition. I thought I would be able to run sub 59 minutes. It was a challenge, but at the end there was something missing. But I know what to do and will try to run such a time in my next half-marathon.”
The wind was also a factor in the women’s race, which became a duel between Ethiopia’s Tadelech Bekele and Kenya’s Agnes Mutune. Bekele crossed the line in i:10:05, eight seconds ahead of Mutune. Germany’s own Sabrina Mockenhaupt grabbed third, finishing in 1:11:43.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg