Wilson Kipsang became the ninth Kenyan champion in succession at the Commerzbank Frankfurt Marathon on Sunday (31), running 2:04:57, the third fastest time in the world this year.
Caroline Kilel completed yet another day of dominance for the East African nation as she ran 2:23:25 for the women’s title, improving her personal best by almost two minutes to break the course record.
The Commerzbank Frankfurt Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
He talked a good race at Friday’s press conference and Wilson Kipsang turned out to be one of those athletes whose deeds matched their words. In only his second marathon – following a debut of 2:07:10 for third place in Paris this April – he moved to another level in beating the experienced Tadese Tola as the Ethiopian finished a distant second in 2:06:31 with the Kenyan Elias Chelimo finishing third in 2:07:04.
Frankfurt delivered its usual Sunday morning in late October of ideal marathon conditions with the temperature hovering around 10 degrees Centigrade and barely a breath of wind. By 15k, reached in 44:57, the pace had broken the 2:06 barrier and the combined Kenyan and Ethiopian distance talent ensured it stayed that way right through to the red carpet-finish in the city’s Festival Hall.
The split at the half marathon was 1:02:38, well inside the pre-race target of 63 minutes and pointing to a finishing time of 2:05:15. At that point, the eventual winner Wilson Kipsang later reflected that he was feeling confident.
“When I saw that we were going faster than the planned time for the half, I was happy. I don’t like it when the pace is too slow. I knew I had prepared very well and felt good. When I looked around, I could see that some of the guys were struggling.”
He was right to trust his feelings. Even though men with greater marathon pedigree were in the leading group, such as last year’s Berlin Marathon runner-up Francis Kiprop and Elijah Keitany, second in Amsterdam in 2009, Kipsang was confident enough to seize the initiative.
Shortly after 30km was passed in 1:29:12, a group of six gradually moved clear. Tola preferred to run either alongside the Kenyan pacemaker Lani Rutto or just behind with Kipsang keeping a close watch on them both. He had learned his lesson from finishing third behind Tola in Paris.
“I decided I couldn’t let him build too much of a lead, so wanted to stay right behind in case he made a move. That’s how he’d beaten me in Paris.”
Kipsang had Tola’s measure this time. A group of four reached 35km in 1:43:59, comprising two apiece from Kenya and Ethiopia, Kipsang and Philip Sanga versus Tola and the unheralded Dereje Maregu, the latter running a superlative debut.
Five kilometres from the finish, Kipsang attacked and only Tadese Tola went with him. But the Ethiopian dropped further behind as Kipsang continued to run in superb, relaxed style to victory.
The 28-year-old became the third fastest marathoner in the world this year with his win in 2:04:57, breaking the course record from last year by 1:17. Kipsang reaped a rich reward, his total payday amounting to 95,000 Euros. The defeated Tadese Tola still improved his personal best by 10 seconds and Elias Chelimo also ran a fine lifetime best in third.
The winning performance was the tenth fastest of all-time and left Wilson Kipsang speculating, in his now customary relaxed style, that he could have a realistic chance of breaking the World record.
The household of women’s champion Caroline Kilel and husband Vincent are celebrating a victory which surprised herself.
She confessed that it was only at 40km that she was confident of ultimate success.
“I thought that the Ethiopians, especially Dire Tune and Mare Dibaba, would be stronger but I realised with 2k remaining that I could beat them. I started to push, looked round and saw they did not respond.”
The pace in the women’s race was on target to break the five-year-old record of 2:25:12, set by the Russian Alevtina Biktimirov, right from the start. Kilel was the one Kenyan to show the confidence to match the Ethiopian duo, reaching halfway with them in 1:10:59.
That was certainly fast and proved that Dire Tune, the 2008 Boston champion, was being deadly serious when she gave 70:00 as her halfway target. But until 30km Caroline Kilel had a significant ally: husband Vincent, who had paced her to 32km in her win in Ljubljana last year, was once again providing able support.
At 40km Caroline Kilel turned the screw, leaving Dire Tune 10 seconds behind with the gap growing. The defending champion, Agnes Kiprop of Kenya, was almost a minute behind with her training partner, Hilda Kibet of the Netherlands.
Caroline Kilel broke the course record by 1:47, earning 40,000 Euros in prize money and bonuses. Already she and husband Vincent are planning to buy a plot of land at home in Kericho with perhaps a present or two for their three-year-old son Travis.
Andy Edwards for the IAAF
1 Wilson Kipsang Kenya 2:04:57 (pb)
2 Tadese Tola Ethiopia 2:06:31 (pb)
3 Elias Chelimo Kenya 2:07:04 (pb)
4 Philip Sanga Kenya 2:07:11 (pb)
5 Daniel Chepyegon Uganda 2:08:24 (pb)
6 Dereje Maregu Ethiopia 2:09:03 (debut)
7 Ronald Rutto Kenya 2:09:17 (debut)
8 Elijah Keitany Kenya 2:09:19
9 Evans Kiplagat Kenya 2:10:07 (pb)
10 Henry Sugut Kenya 2:10:43
1 Caroline Kilel Kenya 2:23:25 (pb)
2 Dire Tune Kenya 2:23:44 (pb)
3 Agnes Kiprop Kenya 2:24:07 (pb)
4 Isabellah Andersson Sweden 2:25:10 (pb)
5 Mare Dibaba Ethiopia 2:25:27 (pb)
6 Hilda Kibet Netherlands 2:26:23 (pb)
7 Yuliya Ruban Ukraine 2:27:44 (pb)
8 Yelena Sokolova Russia 2:28:01 (pb)
9 Hellen Kimutai Kenya 2:28:38
10 Aniko Kalovics Hungary 2:30:56