South African Lusapho April is gunning for his own course record at the 26th running of the HAJ Hannover Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (10).
April clocked 2:08:32 on the flat Hannover course at the 2013 edition, a performance that remains the 33-year-old’s personal best. If he succeeds, he’ll become the race’s first three-time winner.
Organisers have assigned pacemakers to bring the field through the half in 1:04:00 to hopefully lead to a sub-2:08 finish, a performance well within the range of Kenyans Philipp Sanga and Duncan Koech, who could be April’s prime challengers.
Sanga has a personal best of 2:06:07 from the Frankfurt Marathon in 2011 and although he’ll be contesting the race for the first time, Koech will be on familiar turf, having won here in 2008 and finishing fourth in 2011. Koech boasts a personal best of 2:07:53 from Cologne in 2012.
Also returning is Martin Kosgey, who was fourth here in 2014 clocking 2:11:37, and third a year ago, when he improved his best to 2:09:50.
But it was April, who’ll be contesting the race for the fifth time, who seized much of the pre-race attention this week.
“I am fit and feel very well,” he said. “I believe I can run a personal best here and hope to run under 2:08 on Sunday.” He’ll also be chasing a spot on the South African Olympic team; for that he said, a time of around 2:11:30 should punch his ticket.
Kenyan Moses Masai also intends to figure in the mix. A 2009 world championships 10,000m bronze medallist on the track, Masai is hoping to finally produce a sub-2:10 run in the marathon.
I will go with the first group and run the first half in 64 minutes,” said Masai, who ran his career best of 2:10:36 in Dusseldorf two years ago. “It is my goal to run sub-2:08 in Hannover.”
Hahner twins looking to secure Olympic team spots
Germany's Anna Hahner leads the women’s field, armed with 2:26:44 career best and a major city marathon title under her belt.
The 26-year-old is aiming to not only improve on her 2014 campaign in which she won the Vienna City Marathon in the spring and then improved her still-standing best in Berlin in the autumn, but to also secure a place on the German Olympic team along with her twin sister Lisa, who is also running on Sunday.
“I am in top shape and want to run the first half in 1:15,“ said Anna Hahner, who’ll them aim for a negative split.
However, she’ll have to run faster than her 2:30:19 performance in Berlin last September for a chance to punch her ticket to Rio.
Lisa Hahner meanwhile is in better position for an Olympic berth based on her 2:28:39 run in Frankfurt last October.
“I have trained well and look forward to Hannover,“ said Lisa Hahner, who confirmed that she and her sister will run together in their first marathon head-to-head since the 2013 Frankfurt Marathon.
Out to spoil the Hahner family party will be Ethiopia's Tizita Terecha Dida, who clocked 2:28:02 in Guangzhou last year, and Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska, who has a 2:27:07 best from 2013.
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF