The magical number, 7:41:33. That was the finish time for Germany’s Andreas Raelert as he obliterated the previous mark set just seven days earlier by Marino Vanhoenacker. An incredible 19 minutes under the eight-hour barrier! Truly phenomenal and an absolute joy to watch for the the 180,000 spectators that lined the route at the world’s biggest long-distance event. Not to be outdone by her male counterparts, Chrissie Wellington also beat the world record time she set on this course last year by finishing in an astounding 8:18:13. What makes this performance even more significant is the fact that she placed fifth overall. Against the German uber-bikers and the other world-class competitors, she showed that she has no equal amongst the females and is making significant inroads into beating most of the top pro men these days.
Roth, which is about an hour’s drive by car from Munich, welcomed 3,500 individual competitors and an additional 2,000 relay competitors to what is the biggest race over this distance in the world. The Challenge family have certainly carved themselves a niche with this championship event, not to mention all the other races they organise around the world. It’s easy to see why this race is so successful. The entire town of Roth, as well as the towns in close proximity, get involved in what can only be described as one of THE BEST races there are. The course is fast but accurate in terms of distance, so don’t let these super fast times fool you. I did the race myself and this course is spot on 226km in distance. The 3.8km canal course is made for swimmers. Straight out, around the turn buoy and you head back in calm waters protected by the canal walls on either side. The bike course does have a few climbs but one gets the sense of riding downhill most of the time. The run route follows a course along the banks of the canal with a few loops to ensure that over 3,000 athletes are not fighting for some Tarmac to run on. Having said that, a lot of the run course is on gravel roads that are easy on the foot and certainly not slow. Raelert’s 2:40 marathon time showed that if you ever want a PB over an iron-distance race, then Roth is the place to be in 2012.
Raelert led from the gun and only Andreas Bocherer was able to stay in touch over the swim leg. Once onto the bike, Raelert extended the lead with Sebastian Kienle (last year’s runner-up) the only other athlete to come close to matching the 4:11 bike time of Raelert. Once he got his running shoes on, there was no turning back and he scorched a 2:40 marathon time that was 11minutes faster than the next nearest competitor. For those that wonder, this is an average speed of 3:45 per km. Incredible! Raelert finished in a time of 7:41:33 with Kienle the only other athlete to dip under the magical eight-hour barrier. He crossed the line in 7:57:06 with New Zealand’s Keegan Williams coming home in a fine third place in 8:16:01.
Wellington showed just why she is the world’s number one by taking the race by the horns and never looking back. She was pacing off most of the men leaving the women reeling in her wake. Her 8:18:13 finishing time has her edging slowly but surely to the 8:10 mark. If she can crack that one day and can stay injury free, she might even be able to go under eight hours. Impossible you say? Given her talent and on-going success, I would not wager any money on the fact that she won’t ever break eight hours. German Rookie Julia Wagner came in for second spot in 8:56:33 with Challenge Cairns winner, Aussie Rebekah Keat, finishing in third in 8:59:22.
A fantastic day’s racing in near-perfect race conditions delivered two world records. What more can you ask for?
TOP 3 MEN
Andreas Raelert 7:41:33
Sebastian Kienle 7:57:06
Keegan Williams 8:16:01
TOP 3 WOMEN
Chrissie Wellington 8:18:13
Julia Wagner 8:56:33
Rebekah Keat 8:59:22
Photos: Alexander Hussenstein/Getty Images for Challenge Roth