Germany’s traditionally busy spring marathon season will have its final race of international significance this Sunday, The TUI Marathon Hannover, and the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race will have the defending champion Joseph Kiptum on the starting line.
The Kenyan, who ran a personal best of 2:09:56 in 2012, will be up against the South African winner from 2011, Lusapho April.
April also clocked his best in Hannover when he won with 2:09:25 two years ago.
Five more Kenyans in the race have also run under 2:10 before, making this the best quality elite field in the history of the race and they will be targeting the course record of 2:08:52.
With weather conditions expected to be almost perfect and Hannover having a very flat course, the Elite Race Coordinator Christoph Kopp intends to instruct the pacemakers to reach halfway in 1:04:20.
“We are careful not to over pace. I hope that a group of eight to 10 runners will still be together at the 25km point, and possibly until 30km; then we should be on schedule for a course record,” said Kopp.
A year ago he had hoped that Kiptum would be able to improve the course best of 2:08:52 set by his compatriot Yusuf Sangoka when winning in 2010, but stomach problems during the race tool their toll although he still managed to win with 2:09:56.
“A 64:20 for half way should be easy,” said Kiptum on Friday.
“I hope to run well, to run a personal best, a course record and maybe even a time slightly under 2:08,” he added. Kiptum ran the Berlin Half Marathon a month ago and finished sixth in 61:38.
Asked about his stomach problems a year ago, the runner from Iten provided an explanation which will serve as a lesson to any marathon runner who fancies a midnight snack on the eve of a race. “I woke up in the night before the race and I was very hungry. So I had six bananas and then I was sick during the race.”
For Lusapho April, the TUI Marathon Hannover will be his first race at the classic distance since the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“Despite some smaller injury problems in the build-up to London he ran well in the first 30 kilometres. Lusapho was in the group with Meb Keflezighi, who went on to finish fourth, but he was unlucky since he fell hard at the 30km refreshment point and was limping during the final lap,” explained his coach Karen Zimmerman.
April eventually staggered home in 43rd with 2:19:00. However, on Sunday, his coach hopes that he will be back in peak form.
The 30-year-old runner from Uitenhage, near Port Elizabeth, had a good Half Marathon test in the Two Oceans race in March where, on the hilly course, he finished second with 63:40. “I am back in Hannover to do well and I want to win,” said April.
The fastest runner in the field is Kenya’s Wilfred Kigen, who has a best of 2:07:33 from Hamburg in 2007. Although he was second in that particular race, he knows what it feels like to triumph on German roads as he is the three-time Frankfurt Marathon winner, taking the honours in three consecutive years from 2005 to 2007.
The 38-year-old may no longer be a big favourite but he still trains very seriously. “I will run with the leading group on Sunday and then see what I can do,” said Kigen. He made the pace at the Seoul Marathon in March, where he ran until 25km at 2:06 pace.
The other Kenyans are in the field with bests below 2:10: Daniel Kosgei (2:08:45), David Kisang (2:08:54), Sila Toek (2:09:09) and Jonathan Yego, who won the Rome Marathon in 2008 with 2:09:57.
In the women’s race Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska is the fastest athlete entered with a best of 2:28:31 and the Marathon Hannover organisers hope for their first sub 2:30 time after last year when Russia’s Natalya Puchkova improved the course record to 2:30:17.
In addition to Burkovska, Russia’s national champion from 2012, Natalya Sokolova, will be running and she has a best of 2::30:10. Ethiopia’s Marta Megra, who has a best of 2:31:01 and Kenyan debutant Edinah Kwambai, who has a Half Marathon best of 70:36 from last year, could also do well.
Unfortunately, Kenya’s Mercy Kibarus, who was regarded as potentially the favourite after recently clocking 68:18 in the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon, was a late withdrawal after being unable to make to trip to Hannover due to visa problems in Nairobi.
Adding races at shorter distances, a total of around 15,000 runners are expected to take to the roads in and around Hannover on Sunday.
Jörg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF