Two thrilling finishes that went right to the wire marked the TUI Marathon Hanover on Sunday. In the men’s race a fascinating battle for victory ended with a triumph for Joseph Kiptum (Kenya), who just held off Ethiopia’s Megersa Bacha Chikuala. Both clocked 2:09:56. Little more than 20 minutes later spectators witnessed another finish where the first two were given the same time. Here the winner was Russia’s Natalya Puchkova with a course record of 2:30:17. She had a big lead during the race which was reduced to just one step shortly before the finish line. But Aberume Mekuria (Ethiopia) did not quite manage to overtake her.
A record total of 15,456 runners had entered the various running events of the TUI Hanover Marathon. Around 150,000 spectators lined the course in very good weather conditions for marathon running. The TUI Hanover Marathon is an IAAF Bronze Label Race.
In the men’s race somehow the pacemakers did not stick to the schedule. It had been planned to attack the course record of 2:08:52 with a half marathon split time of around 64:00 minutes but the pace was much too slow. A leading group of nine runners passed this point in 65:45 minutes. At 30 k (1:33:25) all nine were still in the group and it was only in the final seven kilometres that the Kenyans and Ethiopians really started racing. While split times suggested a finishing time of just under 2:12 at this point in the end the first two still managed to go sub 2:10.
Soon after 35 k four runners were in the lead: Kenyans Joseph Kiptum and Peter Kirui as well as Ethiopians Megersa Bacha Chikuala and Abdisa Sori Bedada. It was then Kiptum who surged ahead at 41 k and opened a gap of almost 15 metres. But Chikuala was able to close that gap and once they reached the finishing straight they were next to each other. On the final 250 metres the lead changed a couple of times and in the end Kiptum was just ahead. The battle for third also ended with a Kenyan in front: Kurui clocked 2:10:09 while Bedada was fourth with 2:10:15. Tamrat Bekele, a younger brother of long distance superstar Kenenisa Bekele, took fifth in his debut with 2:11:11. Kenenisa Bekele had paid the flight for his brother to get him into the race.
For Joseph Kiptum it was somehow good fortune that the pace had been much slower than expected. “I had a stomach problem and if they would have run faster I would not have been able to go with the leading group,” explained the 24 year-old, who had to vomit twice during his race. Despite this he not only won but also improved his personal best in his second marathon by eleven seconds. “Last night I could not sleep. So at around 3 am in the morning I ate some bananas. Somehow something went wrong. But I am very happy that I still won,” said Joseph Kiptum.
In the women’s race Natalya Puchkova was well ahead early in the race. In contrast to their normal race tactics the Ethiopians opted for a much slower start. At the half marathon mark the 25 year-old Russian had an advantage of exactly one minute, when she passed this point in 1:13:47. A group with five Ethiopians only started chasing her after the gap had increased to 1:15 minutes at 30 k. While Puchkova, who had entered the event with a personal best of 2:33:03, slowed her advantage was getting smaller and smaller. When the Russian entered the finishing straight she was still quite a bit ahead of Aberume Mekuria. The Ethiopian then mounted a final attack and sprinted towards Natalya Puchkova. But she could not quite overtake her in the end.
Behind Puchkova and Mekuria two Ethiopians took third and fourth: Halima Hassen Beriso (2:30:26) and Zeineba Hasso Hayato (2:30:27). Bernadette Pichlmaier was the fastest German in tenth place (2:38:17), followed by Katharina Heinig (2:39:03) in eleventh. The 22 year-old daughter of Katrin Dörre-Heinig broke 2:40 for the first time. She had been on course for a time of around 2:36, but then had problems in the final 10 k.