Germany’s busy spring marathon season will see its final race of international significance this Sunday: The TUI Marathon Hannover 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 winner from 2011, Lusapho April. The South African also clocked his PB in Hannover when he won with 2:09:25. Five more Kenyans are in the race who have run sub 2:10 times before, making this the best quality elite field in the history of the race so far. The men will be targeting the course record of 2:08:52. In the women’s race Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska is the fastest athlete entered with a PB of 2:28:31. Here organisers hope for a first sub 2:30 time. Adding races at shorter distances a total of around 15,000 athletes is expected to take part in the TUI Marathon Hannover, which is an IAAF Bronze Label Race.
With weather conditions expected to be almost perfect and Hannover providing a very flat course Elite Race Coordinator Christoph Kopp intends to instruct the pacemakers for a 64:20 half way pace. “We are careful not to overpace. I hope that a group of eight to ten runners will still be together at the 25 k point and possibly until 30 k. Then we should be on schedule for a course record,” said Christoph Kopp. A year ago he had hoped that Joseph Kiptum would be able to improve the course best of 2:08:52 set by Yussuf Sangoka (Kenya) in 2010. But Kiptum had severe stomach problems during the race. However he still managed to win with 2:09:56. “I would think Joseph can run at least one minute faster,” said Christoph Kopp.
“A 64:20 for half way should be easy,” said 25 year-old Joseph Kiptum. “I hope to run well, to run a personal best, a course record and may be even a time slightly under 2:08,” said the defending champion, who had run the Berlin half marathon a month ago. There he finished sixth with 61:38 minutes. Asked about his stomach problems a year ago the runner from Iten explained: “I woke up in the night before the race and 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 Olympic Games in London. “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 30 k refreshment point. So he was limping during the final lap,” explained his coach Karen Zimmerman. Lusapho April finished 43rd in London with 2:19:00. 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. On the hilly course he was outsprinted and finished second with 63:40. “I am back in Hannover to do well and I want to win,” said Lusapho April.
The fastest runner in the field is Wilfred Kigen (Kenya), who has a PB of 2:07:33 from Hamburg in 2007. While he was second in that race he is the three-time Frankfurt Marathon winner (2005 to 2007). The 38 year-old may no longer be a big favourite but he still trains seriously. “I will run with the leading group on Sunday and then see what I can do,” said Wilfred Kigen. He had been a pacemaker at the Seoul Marathon in March, where he ran until 25 k in a 2:06 pace.
Four more Kenyans are in Sunday’s race with PBs of sub 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.
For various reasons the TUI Marathon Hannover still has no women’s time of sub 2:30. Last year Russia’s Natalya Puchkova improved the course record to 2:30:17. This Friday there was an early set-back for the organisers. Mercy Kibarus was regarded as the big pre-race favourite because the Kenyan recently clocked 68:18 in the Rome Ostia Half Marathon. But her visa was made void apparently by a French embassy official at Nairobi airport on Friday evening. “She had a Schengen visa for France, but the flight was going into Amsterdam. So they stopped her and fellow-Kenyan Patrick Terer, who was supposed to do very well on Sunday as well,” said a furious Christoph Kopp. There was nothing he could do. “If they would not have made the visas void we could have rebooked the flights. This is unbelievable and puts the athletes in a very bad position – months of training for nothing.”
Hopes for a course record and a sub 2:30 times now remain with Olena Burkovska (Ukraine/2.28:31) and Russia’s national champion from 2012, Natalya Sokolova (2:30:10). But Marta Megra (Ethiopia) and debutant Edinah Kwambai (Kenya) could also do well. Megra has improved to 2:31:01 in Mumbai this January while Kwambai has a half marathon PB of 70:36 from 2012.
More information about the TUI Marathon Hannover is available online at: www.marathon-hannover.de