Frankfurt, Germany - Take one World record holder, disgruntled that he was not selected for the Olympic Games, and put him on a Marathon course where a colleague (who did go to the Games) clocked just four seconds slower than his World record last year. Then add the vital ingredients of favourable weather and equitable pace-making, and the likely outcome is another very fast time for Patrick Makau in Sunday’s BMW Frankfurt Marathon.
Makau, 27, has been the world’s fastest marathoner for the past two years, the second of which was the World record 2:03:38 he ran in Berlin 13 months ago, during which he disposed of previous record holder, Haile Gebrselassie in exemplary fashion.
A drop out in the London Marathon last April doubtless contributed to his being overlooked for an Olympic spot by Kenyan selectors spoiled for choice. But the omission still rankles on the eve of this IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
“I had a small injury in London, and dropped out to save myself for the Olympics,” said Makau, on arrival in Frankfurt this morning (Friday). “I had been promised an Olympic place, so felt I was doing the right thing. I was ready for it (the Games), so I couldn’t understand why they dropped me. I was very disappointed, but there was nothing I could do about it”.
Makau’s only race since then was the Tilburg 10 miles, in the Netherlands on September 2, when he ran a personal best 45:41, to finish third. According to manager Zane Branson, Makau closed with a 2:38 final kilometre, but felt he didn’t need to overextend himself against colleagues Pius Kirop and John Mwangangi.
Makau came to Frankfurt for a press conference a month ago, and surveyed the course with approbation. “It’s a good course; it’s a 2:03 course, so that shows it’s good. I can’t talk about a World record, but anything is possible. To be World record holder is good for me, it gives me more energy. Everything has been going well in training, my speed work and my long runs. My body is OK, so I’m hoping for good results.”
Temperatures in northern Europe dropped overnight, from mid-teens to around 4-5C, but today’s rain in Frankfurt is due to dissipate, with a forecast of dry, relatively windless conditions, and around 4C(39F) on Sunday morning. Having clocked 2:05:08 in cold and torrential rain to win Berlin 2010, Makau had every right to be unconcerned.
“We might be cold for the first 10k, but after that it’ll feel normal. I’m ready to run, and I’m used to bad conditions, for example in Berlin two years ago. I managed to run very well, so I’m ready for anything.”
The pacemakers have been primed for a first half in 1:01:40, which is the time that Makau’s colleague Wilson Kipsang clocked last year, on the way to an agonisingly close assault on Makau’s record, with 2:03:42. Kipsang’s manager Gerard van de Veen feels that his top man this year, Gilbert Kirwa (winner here in 2009, in 2:06:14) might be stretched by such a fast opening half, and admits that Makau is by far the favourite. Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay, winner of Rotterdam earlier this year, in 2:04:48, might beg to differ, but his crowded racing programme might militate against an even faster run.
Other leading contenders include Kenyan Albert Matebor, third last year in 2:05:25; Bazu Worku of Ethiopia, has also run 2:05:25, without yet winning a Marathon; and colleague Deressa Chimsa, who won Prague in May, in 2:05:42.
Daska, looking to defend, targeting sub-2:20
In contrast, the women’s race looks to be a wholly Ethiopian affair. Mamitu Daska returns to defend the title she won last year, with a personal best 2:21:59, and said on Thursday, “If the conditions are good, I would like to run 2:18, 2:19.” But her colleague Bezunesh Bekele, who easily outpaced her in Dubai earlier this year, is a minute and half faster, with her 2:20:30 in the UAE. But another colleague, Meselech Melkamu, who has signalled a change of direction by dyeing her hair gold may spring a surprise. A world class track and cross country runner, Melkamu may well prove her experienced manager Jos Hermens right when he suggests an equally topline time on her Marathon debut.
But in the 31st running of Germany’s oldest Marathon, the formbook suggests that the spotlight with stay on Patrick Makau. His best in winning Rotterdam in 2:04:48 two years ago, was the world’s leading time of 2010; his World record 2:03:38 led last year; and he looks ready to make it three years in succession at the head of the world marathon rankings.
Pat Butcher (organisers) for the IAAF