The course record is the goal in the men’s race of the 11th METRO GROUP Marathon Dusseldorf on Sunday, and the favourites to do it at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race are the Kenyan pair of Paul Biwott and Duncan Koech.
Taking into account the rapid development of men’s elite marathon times the Dusseldorf mark of 2:08:27 looks almost out of date so Christoph Kopp, the Elite Race Coordinator, has assembled the best ever field for the race in order to attack and lower the mark.
Seven runners will be on the starting line with personal bests below 2:10, and the fastest on paper is Biwott with a best 2:06:54.
“We have signed seven runners with personal bests of sub-2:10 because we want to see a thrilling race and not just one where one runner is all on his own in the lead,” explained Kopp, during a press conference at Dusseldorf Airport on Friday (26).
The location was slightly ironic because Kopp was still waiting for Biwott to arrive, having missed his flight from Kenya on Thursday.
Biwott ran his personal best of 2:06:54 when finishing sixth in Amsterdam in 2011 and he will run with bib number 2 on Sunday.
Wearing number 7 will be Koech, and this is worth mentioning as Kopp has a habit of handing his personal favourite this bib.
Koech, 31, just missed out on victory in Dusseldorf a year ago when he finished second in 2:08:33, only six seconds behind Ethiopia’s Seboka Diriba Tola who set the course record that will be the top men’s target.
It is a time that Koech is capable of achieving as he ran his personal best of 2:07:53 slightly further up the Rhine in Cologne last autumn, where he was third.
“I am well prepared and want to run a personal best on Sunday. Hopefully, in what will be my 13th marathon, I will improve to around 2:07,” said Koech.
The runner from Kapsabet ran his first marathon in 2008, winning in Hannover, and he has managed to improve his personal best every year since and Koech hopes to keep that streak going on Sunday.
He has been inspired by watching his friend and compatriot Eliud Kipchoge win in Hamburg last Sunday.
“I watched Eliud Kipchoge winning the Hamburg Marathon (with a course record of 2:05:30 in his debut). I was very happy, because Eliud is my idol. We know each other very well since we are almost neighbours in Kapsabet.”
Koech also said he expects a strong challenge from his fellow Kenyans Pius Ondoro (a best of 2:08:00) and Cosmas Kigen (2:09:43) on Sunday. Originally another fast Kenyan had been expected to be on the start line but Duncan Kibet, who has a best of 2:04:27, had to cancel on short notice because of a muscle injury.
Three Ethiopians complete the group of elite runners with personal bests of below 2:10: Solomon Tsige Asfaw (2:09:01), Dereje Debele Tulu (2:09:08) and Haylu Dogaga Abebe (2:09:34).
Kenya’s Raymond Bett may not be as fast on paper as the others, with a best of 2:11:32 but the two-time winner of the Athens Marathon, in 2010 and 2012, has the credentials to go faster. In addition, another Kenyan to look out for is Milton Rotich, who is making his Marathon debut but has a Half Marathon best of 1:00:43.
In contrast to the men’s race, realistically the women’s course record of 2:25:49) looks unlikely to be threatened this year.
Ethiopia’s Melkam Gizaw is the only runner entered with a best of below 2:30. She ran 2:26:52 in the 2011 Marathon Eindhoven and then clocked 2:27:50 for third in Dusseldorf last year.
However, two debutantes might well also be in contention on Sunday: Kenya’s Rebecca Chesire has a Half Marathon best of 70:45 and while Gizaw’s compatriot Addisalem Demeke Mekonnen will compete in a European for the first time, there are expectations that she will go with the pace at the front.
The leading domestic contender in the women’s race is Veronica Pohl, who will have her second Marathon after her 2:34:59 debut in Frankfurt last October.
Adding other events that will take place on the day, organisers have registered around 14,000 runners of which 4250 will contest the Marathon.
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF