Frankfurt, GermanyWhen Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the Commerzbank Frankfurt Marathon, in his debut at the distance last year, there was a bit of confusion, since there was already a very famous compatriot, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, who had already won the Boston Marathon four times, and a Robert Kiprotich Cheruiyot, who had run 2:08:13 back in 2003. Sure enough, when the following day’s news ‘cuttings’ came in from around the world, half the pictures were of the ‘Boston’ Robert K. Cheruiyot.
He, ‘Kipkoech’ then became a Muslim, and changed his name to Omar Ahmed, but it hasn’t really stuck. “Nothing to do with me,” laughed ‘Kiprono’ this morning, back in Frankfurt to defend his title on Sunday (25th).
The Commerzbank Frankfurt Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Fortunately the third Robert K isn’t running as well as he was six years ago. Nevertheless, we’d just better be alert to our Cheruiyots.
Last year’s Frankfurt victory for ‘Kiprono’ was a real rags-to-riches tale. His father had recently died, and his mother and elder sisters were taking care of the small family farm 300 kilometres away from where Robert was living and training in Eldoret in the western highlands.
Frankfurt was his first trip outside Kenya, and without any credentials, his trip was paid for by a training partner on the basis that a sub-2:14 run would see the organiser reimburse the flight. Not only did he get the flight money, the organiser was all too happy to hand over well in excess of 50,000 euros in prize money and bonuses for a course record of 2:07:21.
“Everyone was so happy. I was able to build a new house for my family, and my mother now has ten cows instead of three. I’ve also bought a plot of land in Eldoret, and have plans to build a house for myself.” And for his girlfriend, Mercy, who he will marry next April, following a return trip to the Boston Marathon.
Because, to confuse matters even more in the name game, ‘Kiprono’ ran his second marathon in Boston earlier this year, but only finished fifth. “I had a problem with my hamstrings, and the course was so up and down, it made them worse.”
Mbote and Kirwa the chief opposition
That’s all solved now, he says, and he sets out in his Frankfurt title defence, knowing that he is in similar shape to his training colleague, Vincent Kipruto, who shattered the course record in Paris last April, with 2:05:47, one of the world’s best times.
‘Kiprono’ certainly has time on his side, he’s still only 21. But his task on Sunday will be no easier for that. Frankfurt is fast climbing the quality scale in international marathon terms, and with Commerzbank behind them, the organisers have tempted 15 sub-2:09 men to the race.
“I think he will be dangerous,” said ‘Kiprono,’ pointing at the name of compatriot, Jason Mbote on the entry list. Mbote seemed to agree. He ran 2:07:37 in Seoul, Korea last year, and his young training partner, Gilbert Kirwa, who won Vienna in 2.08.21, in very warm conditions on his debut earlier this year, also gave the nod to Mbote.
Along with another Kenyan, Wilson Kigen, who ran a personal best 2:08:16 for second last year, they all plan to go through the half-marathon in close to 63 minutes, and the likelihood is that there will still be a gang of at least a dozen at that pace.
The 28th edition of Germany’s oldest city marathon is expected to have over 13,000 starters this year, and will feature once again its unusual indoor finish, complete with fireworks and oompah band in the FestHalle, the old city exhibition hall. The weather forecast looks perfect, with light rain and temperatures between 7 and 13C predicted (mid-40s to mid-50sF).
Bayisa the woman to beat
In the women’s race, popular favourite Luminita Zaituc will be running her farewell marathon before retirement. She admits that, at 41 she is unlikely to challenge for victory this time, but she won here twice, and her personal best of 2:26.01 from 2001 is still one of the fastest in Frankfurt.
Atsede Bayisa of Ethiopia is favourite, after her personal best victory, 2.24.42 in Paris this year. Her challengers will be one of the Nurgalieva twins, Olesya, who won here in 2004, and ran a personal best 2.27.37 for second last year; and the Kenyan duo of Agnes Kiprop and Rose Cheruiyot, no relation, incidentally to any of those named Robert K Cheruiyot.
(There will be live text of the event at www.frankfurt-marathon.com, beginning at 10.00 local time, not forgetting that clocks go back one hour, earlier that morning)
Pat Butcher for the IAAF