Anna Hahner and Getu Feleke ahead of the 2015 Vienna City Marathon (Victah Sailer / organisers) © Copyright
Preview Vienna, Austria

Defending champions Feleke and Hahner hope to go quicker in Vienna

After winning the Vienna City Marathon with a course record of 2:05:41 last year, Getu Feleke promised to return to the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in 2015. And that’s exactly what he will do on Sunday (12).

Not long ago, such a time was thought to be impossible on this course. But the 28-year-old Ethiopian intends to attack his own course record this weekend. With weather forecasts looking good and pacemakers instructed to set up a 2:05 target time, organisers hope to see a fast winning time.

“If the weather is good then I want to attack my personal best,” said Feleke, who has a PB of 2:04:50 from his second-place finish in Rotterdam in 2012. “If the conditions are not ideal then I will at least go for the course record and possibly below 2:05:30.”

The current world-leading time stands at 2:05:28, run by Dubai winner Lemi Berhanu of Ethiopia.

When Feleke won last year’s Vienna City Marathon, he was still feeling the effects of a chronic stomach problem that had kept him out of competition for nearly a year. “I have no more stomach problems now,” he said. “But I picked up a leg injury in the build up to Frankfurt, which took a long time to heal.”

After recovery, he started preparing for Vienna and ran a 1:00:45 half marathon in Barcelona, where he placed second in February. “This was a very good result for me and it showed that I am in good form. I could relax a bit more in training after that,” said Feleke, who now receives training programmes from renowned Italian coach Renato Canova.

While the defending champion is the big favourite, there are two fellow Ethiopians who could do well.

Sisay Lemma and Siraj Gena are expected to follow Feleke’s pace. Lemma has clocked a 2:07:06 personal best in Dubai this January while Gena has a PB of 2:08:31. “I have recovered well after Dubai and now I am in a better shape than before the Dubai race,” said Lemma.

A Kenyan challenge might come from Duncan Koech, who has a personal best of 2:07:53 and finished fourth in Vienna last year in 2:09:17. “It is a big advantage that I know the course and I know that I am able to run the second half faster than the first one,” he said. “It is my goal to run a personal best on Sunday.”

Organisers had to cope with a couple of last-minute cancellations due to injuries. Among them there are Ethiopia’s Gebo Burka, Kenya’s Josphat Keiyo and Brasil’s Paulo Paula.

After training with Bekele, Hahner is ready for Chepkwony rematch

With a different tactical approach, Caroline Chepkwony hopes to succeed on her second attempt in Vienna.

The Kenyan had a big lead a year ago, but then faltered in the final stages and was overtaken by Anna Hahner. The German winner from 2014 is back in Vienna as well to defend her title.

“It has always been my priority to return to the Vienna City Marathon as a defending champion,” said Hahner. “You never know how often you get the opportunity to start a race wearing bib number 1. This is a great motivation for me.”

The 25-year-old ran 2:28:59 a year ago and then improved her personal best to 2:26:44 in last year’s Berlin Marathon.

Like the defending men’s champion Feleke, Hahner is coached by Canova. Since the Italian became the coach of Kenenisa Bekele last autumn, the group’s training base was switched from Kenya to Ethiopia. Hahner went there this winter for almost six weeks together with her twin sister Lisa.

“It was an inspiring experience to train together with the Ethiopian world-class runners,” she said. “We stayed at Kenenisa’s new training camp in Sululta. Sometimes the electricity or the water would go off. Once we had no water for one-and-a-half days. But we still enjoyed it and had great conditions for training.”

A time in the range of 2:28 is a goal since the German national qualifying standard for the Olympics is expected to be between 2:28:30 and 2:29:00. “I want to show early that I am ready for Rio,” said Hahner.

During her final preparations, she watched the video of last year’s race. “I like films with a happy end – and this was one for me of course,” she joked.

Chepkwony will be less keen to see last year’s film again. “I had stomach cramps in the final part of the race and I nearly collapsed,” recalled the 30-year-old Kenyan, who finished 19 seconds behind Hahner and needed medical treatment afterwards.

While she broke away relatively early during last year’s race, Chepkwony intends to go for a different approach this time. “I expect a good competition,” said Chepkwony, who set her PB of 2:27:27 when winning the 2013 Ljubljana Marathon. “I cannot say that I will win, but I hope to do well and to break my personal best.”

With seven runners featuring personal bests between 2:25 and 2:30, a thrilling women’s contest is on the cards.

Fate Tola, winner in Vienna in 2011 and 2012, is the fastest in the field with a personal best of 2:25:14. But the Ethiopian will be running her first marathon after maternity leave and might not be in top shape yet.

Switzerland’s Maja Neuenschwander hopes to improve her personal best of 2:29:49, while Esther Chemtai, who has a PB of 2:28:41, is another of the favourites.

Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF