Despite a magnificent effort over the final five kilometres of the BMW Frankfurt Marathon this morning, when he could see that his promised World record was slipping away, Wilson Kipsang of Kenya fell just four seconds short of his compatriot, Patrick Makau’s World mark of 2:03:38, set in Berlin five weeks ago.
There was some scant consolation that his repeat victory in Germany’s finance capital was a 2:03:42 course record in this IAAF Gold Label Road Race, over a minute faster than his 2:04:57 here last year, and that this time will situate him firmly alongside Makau as a front runner for Kenya’s Olympic Marathon trio for London 2012.
The race went exactly as Kipsang had planned it, until just after 30 kilometres of the 42.195k. An early morning shower had given way to a still, slightly misty morning, with temperatures rising from 11C at the 10am start to around 14C at the finish (52-58F); just about perfect conditions for a Marathon. A group of 15 men went through 10k in 29:25, diminishing to a sextet at halfway in 1:01:40, four seconds faster than Makau in Berlin. Deriba Merga of Ethiopia, who finished fourth in the Beijing Olympics, was still in the lee of the pacemaker, Peter Kirui of Kenya, who was reproducing his metronomic feats from Berlin last month; but so were relative unknown Kenyans, Levy Matebo and Albert Matebor.
But it was clear that the pace was dropping when Kipsang went up onto Kirui’s shoulder at around 33k, and when the defending champion saw at 35k that he was heading for a 2:04 finish, he took off by himself. If the winner had ever been in any doubt, that issue was settled right then. It was Kipsang against the clock. And what a race he made of it.
Kipsang sailed away from his pursuers, and clawed back two or three seconds per kilometre on the record chase, with the crowds out on the streets, and watching on the big screens at the indoor finish in Frankfurt’s Festhalle willing him on. Fireworks and floodlights greeted him for the final metres on the red carpet in the Festhalle, but the World record effort was just in vain, by four seconds. Kipsang had promised a World record, but given the way he chased it in the final stages, no one was going to cavil that he failed to deliver.
And if Kipsang was disappointed, he didn’t show it. “It’s OK,” he said at the finish, “I’m very happy with the time. The pacemaking was fine, they did a good job. I’ll try to do it (break the record) next year, this has given me even more motivation.”
The near namesakes Matebo and Matebor revised their bests by over two minutes and close to four minutes respectively; and pacemaker Kirui hung in to finish sixth in 2:06:33, no mean feat in itself. There were nine Kenyans in the first ten, Siraj Gena of Ethiopia being the interloper in eighth place. Another record was the 14 men under 2:10, the most in any Marathon.
Kipsang’s 2:03:42 is clearly the second fastest in history, behind Makau, but 17 seconds ahead of the great Haile Gebselassie, whose 2:03:59 has taken a bit of a battering in recent weeks. Incidentally, all three sub-2:04 times have been set in Germany, Makau and Gebselassie in Berlin, and now Kipsang in Frankfurt, an appropriate 30th anniversary present for Germany’s oldest city Marathon. And the lesson seems to be, if you want to run a fast Marathon, come to Germany; or to put it another way, Deutschland Unter Alles.
Daska lower's women's course record
It worked in the women’s race too, with Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia taking almost a minute and half off Kenyan Caroline Kilel’s record of 2:23:25 from last year with her 2:21:57 performance.
For more than half the race, Daska was preceded by her young colleague, Merima Mohammed. But the 19-year-old fell away in the latter stages, while Agnes Kiprop of Kenya rallied, to finish second in 2:23:54, with another Kenyan, Marathon debutante Flomena Chepchirchir third, in 2:24:21. Mohammed was fourth in 2:24:34.
Pat Butcher (organisers) for the IAAF
1. Kipsang, Wilson KEN 2:03:42
2. Matebo, Levy KEN 2:05:16
3. Matebor, Albert KEN 2:05:25
4. Sanga, Phillip, KEN 2:06:07
5. Cheruiyot, Robert Kipron KEN 2:06:29
6. Kirui, Peter KEN 2:06:31
7. Kiptolo, Chumba Dickson KEN 2:07:23
8. Gena, Siraj ETH 2:08:31
9. Koech, Duncan KEN 2:08:38
10. Sugut, Henry KEN 2:08:56
1. Daska, Mamitu ETH 2:21:59
2. Kiprop, Agnes KEN 2:23:54
3. Chepchirchir, Flomena KEN 2:24:21
4. Mohammed, Merima ETH 2:24:32
5. Busienei, Rita Jeptoo KEN 2:25:44
6. Ejaffini, Nadia ITA 2:26:15
7. Tola, Fate ETH 2:27:18
8. Degefa, Biruktait ETH 2:27:34
9. Mockenhaupt, Sabrina GER 2:28:08
10. Samokhvalova, Alena RUS 2:28:43