With 13 men featuring personal bests of below 2:10, the 31st Vienna City Marathon will see its best elite field in the history of the race when the gun goes on this IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (13).
Among the runners there will be Kenya’s defending champion and three-time winner Henry Sugut and Ethiopia’s Getu Feleke.
With a personal best of 2:04:50 the Ethiopian is the fastest runner ever entered in the Vienna City Marathon while Sugut is the course record holder with 2:06:58, from his win in 2012, which remains his personal best.
“Yes, you could say that Vienna is almost my living room,” joked Sugut during the pre-race press conference on Friday.
“It is a big motivation to have the chance to win the race for the fourth time. I want to make history in Austria,” said Sugut, who could become the only runner in the history of the race to achieve four victories. “My training has gone very well and I am ready. I think I am able to break my personal best on Sunday. The weather forecast sounds ideal for me,” he added.
Overcast skies, calm conditions and temperatures between 13 and 16 degrees Celsius are forecast, which will increase the possibility of fast times.
Sugut lives in Eldoret but he does most of his training in Kaptabet.
“Among my training partners is Geoffrey Kipsang. The fact that he won the World Half Marathon Championships recently is a good sign and a motivation for me. We help each other in training,” explained Sugut. Pace to the halfway point is planned for 1:03:00 and the pacemakers are then supposed to continue until the 30 k
“For me the most difficult part during the race is always when the pacemakers drop out. It then depends on how my body feels. If it is possible I will attack and try to run away,” analysed Sugut.
Asked about the long standing rivalry between Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, he joked: “Generally we are friends but, at a certain stage during the race, everyone becomes an enemy. We will support each other but, from the 30 k mark onwards, the fun is over!"
Fun and fast times for Feleke?
Feleke, whose marathon career actually started in Vienna five years ago, nodded in agreement and then turned the clock back. “For me that was a good race for a start. I had no knowledge about the marathon before.”
In April 2012, he was second in the Rotterdam Marathon with 2:04:50. “I was not fast enough on the final two kilometres, otherwise I could have won in Rotterdam,” added Feleke, who said he runs up to 280 kilometres per week in training in and around Addis Abeba.
A year ago, in his last marathon, Feleke took another second place in Rotterdam. In warm weather conditions he finished with 2:06:45 which suggests that Sugut and the course record could face a strong challenge as Feleke bids to become the first Ethiopian winner in the Austrian capital since Moges Taye in 1998.
Five other runners, all Kenyans, have run under 2:08 in their careers and could also easily have a say in proceedings: Philip Kimutai (personal best of 2:06:07), 2011 Vienna City Marathon winner John Kiprotich (2:07:08), Alfred Kering (2:07:11), Moses Kigen (2:07:45) and Duncan Koech (2:07:53)
In the women’s race, Kenya’s Caroline Chepkwony and Japan’s Mai Ito are regarded as the favourites but Germany’s Anna Hahner and Russia’s Olga Glok are also good candidates to finish in the top three.
It was none other than last year’s women’s winner Flomena Cheyech who recommended that Chepkwony to run the Vienna City Marathon.
“We are training partners in Iten,” said the 28 year-old Chepkwony, who established her personal best of 2:27:27 when she won the Ljubljana Marathon in October 2013.
“Apart from Flomena, I am training together with Mary Keitany and Agnes Kiprop,” she added. “I have won the Rome Ostia Half Marathon in March with 68:48, so I am here with a good feeling. I hope to run another personal best, may be around 2:25."
Ito victory intentions
Ito also consulted a former winner of the Vienna City Marathon before she decided that this would be the race to go to.
The Japanese, who holds the fastest women’s time on the start list with 2:25:26, spoke to Tomo Morimoto. The latter won the Vienna City Marathon in 2006 and so far remains the only Japanese winner of the traditional event.
“She recommended to me to run here,” said the 29 year-old. “I want to win the race. I will not care about any records, I will only go for victory.”
Ito has already run a marathon this year. Less than two months ago she finished seventh in Tokyo with 2:28:36. “But for me Tokyo was only a training race during my preparations for Vienna. I want to compete more internationally, so I chose to come to Vienna.”
It is the first visit to Vienna for Hahner as well. The 24 year-old German improved to 2:27:55 in last year’s Frankfurt Marathon.
“I am in very good shape and want to run well under 2:30 again. It would be great if I could get another personal best,” said Hahner.
“I have competed in Austria twice before. I ran the Wörthersee Half Marathon and the Peuerbach New Year’s Eve race. The atmosphere at both races was great and I really enjoyed it. For me Vienna is a very attractive city, so the Vienna City Marathon was my first choice for this spring,” added Hahner.
Three other runners with personal bests of below 2:30 will also be in contention for a podium place. Olga Glok returns to Vienna after finishing second in 201º2, when she clocked her personal best of 2:27:18; Kenya’s Alice Chelangat has a personal best of 2:26:36 while Ethiopia’s Marta Lema set her best of 2:28:02 when finishing second at the Kosice Marathon last October.
Organisers have registered a record number of 42,000 runners for this year’s Marathon and it’s associated events, which also include a top class half marathon.
Jörg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF