Gilbert Kirwa of Kenya and Germany’s defending champion Fate Tola will head their respective fields at the HAJ Hannover Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, on 8 April.
Both are expected to threaten the course records which currently stand at 2:08:32 for the men and 2:27:07 for the women. Kirwa has a personal best of 2:06:14 while Tola has run 2:25:14.
Kirwa is looking forward to his return to German-speaking territory where he celebrated his two biggest career wins in Vienna and Frankfurt in 2009. First he took the Vienna City Marathon in the spring with 2:08:21 and then clocked his personal best in the autumn when winning in Frankfurt.
Kirwa is hoping to return to his best on Hannover's very flat course, which was improved for this year’s race by taking out several corners. The 32-year-old has run sub-2:08 times on five occasions, but has been slowed by injuries in recent years. Not having run any other races this year, he'll arrive in the norther German city fully focused on this marathon appearance.
Among Kirwa's rivals will be Cheshari Jacob, who won in Hannover three years ago in 2:09:32. The Kenyan has a personal best of 2:07:46 which he ran in Frankfurt in 2013 when he finished fourth.
Poland’s Henryk Szost, with a personal best of 2:07:39, is also entered. He finished seventh in Frankfurt last October, clocking 2:10:09 in very windy conditions.
Tola, who became a German citizen two years ago and competes for the local club Hannover Athletics, will again be the favourite in the women’s race. Last year the 30-year-old took the Hannover title in 2:27:48. She narrowly missed the 2:27:07 course record set by Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska in 2013 - that will be her target this year.
Among her rivals will be China’s Yue Chao and Kenya’s Recho Kosgei, who have personal bests of 2:29:26 and 2:30:09 respectively.
Organisers for the IAAF