Henry Chirchir won a thrilling sprint finish at the 2014 TUI Marathon Hannover, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, to win in 2:11:30 on Sunday (27).
The Kenyan celebrated his first marathon victory in windy conditions just a stride ahead of his 40 year-old compatriot Francis Bowen who was given the same time in the German city.
Evans Ruto, the winner of the Hannover Marathon in 2009, completed a Kenyan sweep in 2:11:34.
A group of nine runners passed halfway in 1:04:32 minutes, compared to the target of 1:04:00. Up until 25km they were heading towards a finishing time of 2:09 but higher winds and rising temperatures slowed the runners and the course record of 2:08:32, set by South Africa’s Lusapho April in 2013, drifted out of reach.
The race then turned into a more tactical affair but reached a dramatic climax at the end.
At 40km, there were still five runners in the lead. It was the oldest of the group, 40 year-old Francis Bowen, who attacked in the final two kilometres.
Ethiopia’s Mekuant Ayenew fell back and eventually finished fifth in 2:11:46, Kenyans Martin Kosgey and Evans Ruto then became detached from the leading pair but fought hard for a place on the podium, a battle eventually won by the former champion.
At the front, sprinting for victory, Chirchir just edged out Bowen, both men crossing the finish line almost together in front of the City Call in 2:11:30.
Chirchir confidence counts
“I never experienced a finish as close as this. I was always confident that I would win. My preparation in a strong group gave me strength and I knew that I have a good sprint finish”, said Chirchir.
The 28 year-old has a personal best of 2:09:24 set in 2012 Cologne race.
In the women’s race, Souad Ait Salem fulfilled her role as favourite and won in 2:33:09.
The Algerian record holder was happy with the victory but not satisfied with her time. A half marathon split time of 1:13:23 minutes suggested a much faster result. At that stage, it seemed possible that Salem could break the course record of 2:27:07 set by Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska a year ago.
“But after 30 kilometres, I got problems with my right foot; then I focused on finishing and winning the race, which thankfully I managed”, said Salem.
German marathon hope Lisa Hahner, who has a personal best of 2:30:17 was forced to drop out after only 12 kilometres due to problems with the plantar fascia in her right foot.
Organisers for the IAAF