Wilfred Kigen defending his title in Frankfurt (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
General News Frankfurt, Germany

Kigen defends with sub-2:08, Kraus surprises - Frankfurt Marathon

Wilfred Kigen of Kenya won this third Dresdner Kleinwort Frankfurt Marathon in a row on Sunday morning, breaking his own course record with a time of 2:07:58. But, as he admitted, it was the toughest of all. He was headed for most of the way by compatriot, Hosea Rotich, who was competing in only his third Marathon. But Kigen proved the tougher in the last kilometre, pulling away to win by 80 metres from Rotich, who ran a personal best of 2:08:11. Another Kenyan, Sammy Kurgat came through the field to take third in 2:08:38, also a personal best.

Kigen, 34 was joined at the finish line in the city's Festival Hall by his eight year old daughter, Patience, and it was that virtue which won her father the race. Because at 30 kilometres, Rotich had shot out of the pack of 15 or so, all of them Kenyan, to go into a 50 metres lead, which he looked like keeping. But Kigen and another colleague, Peter Kiprotich set off in gradual pursuit.

“I knew he went too fast,” Kigen said of Rotich’s spurt, “and I knew if I ran steadily, I would catch him.” He was ably abbetted by Kiprotich, who briefly looked the freshest of the trio, when they caught Rotich at 35k. But it was still Rotich who was forcing the pace.

The 28-year-old had not been among the favourites, but having run 2:10:18, to win the Nairobi Marathon a year ago, his potential was obvious. If he could run that time at over 1600 metres altitude, he was clearly capable of the time he ultimately did here. He had few doubts himself. Asked two days before the race who he thought might win, he replied without a pause “Me or the defending champion.” He was right on the money. Speaking of which, Kigen’s victory in a course record netted him 45,000 euros, something over $64,000. Rotich had his best pay day, earning €30,000. And Kurgat took home €17,500. This is when having a bank as your sponsor – as do many major Marathons nowadays - comes in handy.

Kigen’s efforts will soon be matched by his wife, Hilda, who is expecting their fifth child any day now. “Maybe today,” grinned Kigen, “after she hears what I did here.” Not to be upstaged, Rotich revealed that his second child, a boy had been born a month ago. “I named him Francis, because I was coming to Frankfurt.”

Former steeplechase World record holder, Wilson Boit Kipketer, improved his best by four minutes, finishing 16th in 2:13:08. But he’s running out of years in his avowed pursuit of Haile Gebrselassie’s world record of 2:04:26. Dieter Baumann, Olympic 5000m champion in 1992, made a brief comeback to competition, finishing his first Marathon, for charity, in exactly 2:30:00.

Late race attack by Kraus to nab women's title

The women’s race looked for a long time like a procession, behind the veteran Russian, Svetlana Zakharova, making her comeback after the birth of her daughter. A winner in both Boston and Chicago earlier in the century, Zakharova went gradually away from the field, such that she was close to a minute ahead at 30k. Her pursuers, Luminita Zaituc, twice a winner here, and Jemima Jelegat of Kenya were a few seconds ahead of Kirsten Melevik Otterbu of Norway, with the rest another minute back. But then the script went up in the air.

Melanie Kraus of Germany, who had been over a minute behind at halfway worked her way through from sixth, to catch Zakharova at 40k. The Russian tried to stay with her, but Kraus wasn’t going to concede at that point. She eased away to victory in 2:28:56, staking her claim to a place on the German Olympic team for Beijing. Behind her, Zakharova was only just holding off fast finishing Otterbu, both clocking 2:29:12.

“I knew if I started slow, I could come through in the second half,” said Kraus. "That’s how I planned my training. I saw the Kenyan was fading, and when I still felt good after I passed her and Luminita, I thought I could catch Zakharova.” Otterbu followed Kraus’s charge, and was rewarded with a personal best by two minutes, and a ticket to go to the Olympic Games. “I’m ready to go to Beijing now,” said the Norwegian.

Still carrying an injury which had prevented her racing since winning the European title in Gothenburg last year, Ulrike Maisch finished sixth in 2:32:41. “I’m very happy with that, getting under 2:33 on 70 kilometres a week. I’m almost as happy as a year ago,” said Maisch.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF

Leading results -

 1. Wilfred KIGEN, KEN  2.07.58  45000 euros
 2. Hosea ROTICH, KEN  2.08.11  30000
 3. Sammy KURGAT, KEN  2.08.38  17500
 4. Peter KIPROTICH, KEN  2.08.49  15000
 5. Albert MATEBOR, KEN  2.09.33  3500
 6. Simon NJOROGE, KEN  2.09.46  2500
 7. Elija SANG, KEN  2.10.13  2000
 8. Francis BOWEN, KEN  2.10.41  1500
 9. Japheth KOSGEI, KEN  2.11.01  1000
10. Grigory ANDREEV, RUS  2.11.02  500

 1. Melanie KRAUS, GER  2.28.56  15000 euros
 2. Svetlana ZAKHAROVA, RUS  2.29.12  10000
 3. Kirsten M OTTERBU, NOR  2.29.12  7500
 4. Jemima JELEGAT, KEN  2.29.41  4000
 5. Luminita ZAITUC, GER  2.30.09  2500
 6. Ulrike Maisch, GER  2.32.41  1500
 7. Tsige WORKU, GER  2.33.25  1000
 8. Julia ARCHIPOVA, KGZ  2.34.10  500
 9. Anna von SCHENK, SWE  2.37.06
10. Rasa DRAZDAUSKAITE, LTU  2.37.18