Souad Ait Salem and Jacob Cheshari won the 25th edition of the HAJ Hannover Marathon on Sunday (19). Defending champion Salem clocked 2:27:21, the second-fastest women’s time ever at the IAAF Silver Label Road Race, while Cheshari won a close men’s contest in 2:09:32.
With temperatures slightly below 10C at the start, overcast skies and hardly any wind, conditions were almost perfect.
A group of five women – Ait Salem, Kenyan debutante Maryanne Wanjiru and Ethiopian trio Kidist Tedla, Ayantu Hailemaryam and Aynalem Woldemichael – passed the 10km mark in 34:26, roughly 2:25 pace.
They were still running together beyond the 15km point, but Wanjiru dropped out just before half way. Tedla and Hailemaryam also did not make it to the finish, leaving just Ait Salem and Woldemichael in the lead as they passed half way in 1:12:55, nearly a minute quicker than Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska managed when she set the course record in 2013.
The Ethiopian then fell back after 25km and five kilometres later she was already a minute behind the Algerian. Three-time Olympian Ait Salem reached that point in 1:43:50, still comfortably ahead of Burkovska’s course record pace.
“But during the final two kilometres I had a cramp in my calf,” said Ait Salem, who slowed but still equalled her second-best marathon time with 2:27:21, just 14 seconds shy of the course record.
“I was not aware that I was that close to the course record during the latter stages,” added Ait Salem, who holds the national record at 2:25:08. “But I am very happy with my performance. The weather was perfect and it is a very good course.”
While second-placed Olga Kotovska was well behind in second with 2:29:13, South Africa’s Mapaseka Makhanya improved her PB by more than five minutes to finish third in 2:31:02, well inside the qualifying marks for the 2015 World Championships and 2016 Olympics.
First marathon victory for Cheshari
Much like the women’s race, the men were on pace for a course record at half way, but faded in the second half. Nevertheless, it was a close battle with the top three finishers crossing the line within 18 seconds of each other.
A big leading group passed the 10km point in 30:08, already 47 seconds quicker than Lusapho April managed when setting the course record in 2013. 15 runners, including three pacemakers, then reached the half-way point in 64:08, suggesting that a finish time quicker than April’s 2:08:32 course record was still achievable.
But once the pacemakers dropped out after 25km, the pace dropped considerably for about six kilometres. Nine runners were still in contention, but they passed 30km in 1:31:44, nearly half a minute slower than April’s equivalent split from two years ago.
“There was no one pushing and it turned tactical,” said Cheshari, who has a personal best of 2:07:46 from Frankfurt in 2013.
Cheshari then surged ahead at about 32km. The group split up immediately and the 31-year-old Kenyan was about five seconds in front of Chala Adugna and Martin Kosgei after 35km. The Ethiopian managed to catch the leader at about the 40km mark and even briefly took the lead with less than a kilometre to go. But Jacob responded, went clear and finally won in 2:09:32 with a 10-second advantage.
“I knew I had something left and was confident that I would overtake him,” said Cheshari after achieving the first marathon victory of his career. “It is my aim to achieve a time of 2:06 one day and I think it is possible in Hannover, because the course is flat. I would like to run in Frankfurt in October.”
Adugna had to settle for second in 2:09:42, the second PB he has set this year. In third, Kosgei also significantly improved his PB with 2:09:50, finishing one place higher than he did in Hannover last year.
Uganda’s Munyo Solomon Mutai replicated his finishing position from last year’s Commonwealth Games, taking fourth place with a PB of 2:10:42.
Adding other races at shorter distances, the HAJ Hannover Marathon had a record entry of more than 20,000 runners.
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF
1 Jacob Cheshari (KEN) 2:09:32
2 Chala Adugna (ETH) 2:09:42
3 Martin Kosgei (KEN) 2:09:50
4 Munyo Solomon Mutai (KEN) 2:10:42
5 Augustine Ronoh (KEN) 2:10:45
6 Benjamin Kiptoo (KEN) 2:11:09
7 Weldon Kirui (KEN) 2:12:47
1 Souad Ait Salem (ALG) 2:27:21
2 Olga Kotovska (UKR) 2:29:13
3 Mapaseka Makhanya (RSA) 2:31:02
4 Vaida Zusinaite (LTU) 2:37:59
5 Aynalem Woldemichael (ETH) 2:38:11
6 Lena Schmidt (GER) 2:50:08
7 Alexandra Raddatz (GER) 2:54:04