Seven men with personal bests of below 2:10 will compete in the TUI Marathon Hannover but it will be former champion Evans Ruto, of Kenya, who will start as the favourite for the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday.
“I am very happy to be here for a second time. I have great memories of this flat and fast course. So I returned with a very good feeling regarding a possible attack on the course record,” said Ruto, who won in 2009 and can boast of a best of 2:07:49.
The Hannover course record of 2:08:32 was established just a year ago by South Africa’s Lusapho April.
Ruto is also aiming for his second big marathon victory this year. Back in January, the 30 year-old won the Mumbai Marathon in a fine 2:09:33.
“After Mumbai I rested for three weeks and recovered well. My preparation was very good. If the pacemakers do a good job and the weather is fine, a course record is possible. The pace of 64:00 for the half marathon is fine for me. My goal is to win the race,” he added.
His compatriot and training partner Francis Bowen also is looking to run at that pace.
However, the 40 year-old Bowen has also targeted the master’s world best. Mexico’s Andres Espinosa established the present mark of 2:08:46 in Berlin back in 2003 but Bowen has shown that he is capable of running such a time.
Last year, he clocked 2:08:53 for third place in the Korean city of Chunchon when he was already 40 and Hannover’s course, possibly the flattest of Germany’s international marathons, could be ideal for another tilt at that standard.
“I want to break that record. It has kept me motivated for years. I still can run 2:08, maybe 2:07. In Chunchon I was inside the record until 40 kilometres. On Sunday, younger runners may be faster when it comes to the finish but I'm experienced and I'm focused on breaking the record", said Bowen who only started training seriously when he was 30.
The fastest runner on Hannover’s start line will be another Kenyan, Ben Maiyo.
Back in 2005, Maiyo was second in Chicago with 2:07:09. However, to be fair, in recent years Maiyo has not been able to produce similar performances.
Others more likely to fight for a place on the podium include Ethiopia’s Mekuant Ayenew, who was second in Hannover a year ago with a personal best of 2:10:05.
Lisa Hahner aims to emulate sister's success
After the late withdrawal of Ukraine’s course record holder and defending champion Olena Burkovska, due to an ill-timed injury, the one to beat in the women’s race is Algeria’s Souad Ait Salem.
Burkovska clocked 2:27:07 a year ago while Algeria’s national record holder has a personal best of 2:25:08 that she clocked that time when she took the Rome Marathon in 2007.
Ait Salem’s last marathon was at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she finished 31st, but she ran two good quality half marathons last month. Firstly, she clocked 1:10:36 for eighth place in the Rome-Ostia race, then she was 25th with 1:11:23 in the very competitive IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen.
Two weeks after her twin sister Anna sensationally took the Vienna City Marathon crown, Lisa Hahner hopes to achieve a podium place for the first time in her career as well.
The 24year-old’s chances have significantly increased because of Burkovska’s withdrawal. However, a foot problem has partly hampered Hahner’s preparations for Hannover. The German, who has a best of 2:30:17 from Frankfurt last year, intends to run the first half in 1:15:30.
Ait Salem and Hahner’s main rival might be Nadezhda Leonteva. The Russian has a best of 2:31:57 and hopes to break 2:30 on Sunday.
However, Kenya’s Bornes Kitur could produce a surprise. Hannover will be Kiturs first marathon outside Kenya, where she clocked 2:45:52 at high altitude in Eldoret.
Organisers for the IAAF