“This is Your Day”. That was the motto of the BMW Frankfurt Marathon. When Mark Kiptoo was twelve kilometres away from the indoor finish in the Festhalle he felt a pain in his calf muscle and later lost a couple of metres. Trailing the leaders he thought about the motto and told himself: “Just hang on – this could still be my day!” It was indeed. Last year’s runner-up went one better: Kiptoo won the race with 2:06:49 from fellow-Kenyans Mike Kigen and Gilbert Yegon, who ran 2:06:59 and 2:07:08 respectively.
Defending champion Vincent Kipruto of Kenya finished a disappointing 13th in 2:12:09 while highly rated Ethiopian Tsegaye Mekonnen dropped out after the 30 k mark. But another runner besides Kiptoo enjoyed a day to remember: Arne Gabius ran a sensational debut with 2:09:32, which is the first sub 2:10 time by a German since 1990. It is also the third fastest time by a European this year.
There was an Ethiopian victory in the women’s race with Aberu Kebede clocking a fine 2:22:21, which is the ninth fastest time in 2014, discounting the non-record eligible course of the Boston Marathon. Sharon Cherop of Kenya was second with 2:23:44, Ashetu Bekere (Ethiopia) took third in 2:24:59.
15,228 runners from 101 nations entered the BMW Frankfurt Marathon, which is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
In almost perfect conditions with temperatures of around 13 Celsius, almost no wind and dry weather but relatively high humidity, the leading group passed the half way mark in 62:32 minutes. It was exactly the 2:05 pace planned beforehand. And there were still 14 runners plus two pacemakers in the leading group. However the athletes had run an uneven pace, which cost some energy and made them pay in the final section of the race. Soon after the 25 k mark it was Tsegaye Mekonnen who dropped back. The Ethiopian, who won Dubai in January with 2:04:32 to set a world junior best, was considered one of the favourites. But the 19-year-old became entangled with another runner before the 10 k mark, fell and subsequently dropped out.
Another pre-race favourite who suffered later in the race was the defending champion Vincent Kipruto of Kenya. The pace proved too strong for him after 30 km and he dropped back to finish 12th in 2:12:09. Although the tempo slowed to more than 3:00 minutes per kilometre during the final stages, the race for the victory remained exciting to the end. Six runners were still in contention with seven kilometres to go: Kiptoo, Kigen, Yegon, pacemaker Ronald Korir, who decided to carry on after the 30k mark, plus Ethiopians Deribe Robi and Tebalu Zawude. At 40 k Kiptoo was in fourth position and looked as if he would miss a podium place. But then the 38 year-old drew level with the leaders as Yegon and Kigen slackened the pace. “Originally I just wanted to encourage Mike Kigen because he is my training partner. But then I saw that he was tired, so I decided to press on,” said Mark Kiptoo, who had lost last year’s race by just one second in a sprint finish.
“I am very grateful to have won this time – although my form was better last year. This victory gives me some motivation. I think I have the capacity to run a 2:04 marathon in the future,” said 38 year-old Kiptoo, who would like to attack the world masters record of 2:08:46 in two years time. “I am passionate about this record. I believe I still have a long way to go in the marathon, I am still learning.”
Meanwhile Germany’s Arne Gabius ran a great debut. After passing the half marathon mark in 65:08 minutes he was the only one in the men’s elite field who managed to run the second half faster. Finishing in 2:09:32 the 33 year-old became the fourth fastest German marathon runner ever. It was in the 1990 Berlin Marathon when two Germans last broke 2:10. Jörg Peter, who is the national record holder, clocked 2:09:23 in that race and Stephan Freigang ran 2:09:45. Gabius also became the third fastest European this year.
“It was my plan to run the second half faster than the first. I knew I could get under 2:10 here,” said an overwhelmed Arne Gabius, who now considers targeting the Olympic marathon in Rio in 2016.
The women’s race was fast from the beginning, with Aberu Kebede taking the lead quickly. Sharon Cherop and Frankfurt’s course record holder Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia, who had clocked 2:21:01 here two years ago, were running just behind Kebede. The trio passed half way in 70:35, on target for the course record. It was Kebede who then increased the pace and took the lead just before the 25 k mark. Running kilometres of well under 3:20 she was inside the course record with a 30 k split time of 1:39:50.
However in the final five kilometres the 28 year-old double Berlin Marathon champion found the pace too hard to maintain. But with 2:22:21 Kebede achieved the third fastest winning time in the history of the BMW Frankfurt Marathon. “This is a happy day for me, but it was a very hard race,” Kebede said.
While Meselech Melkamu dropped out beyond 30 k, Sharon Cherop ran a fine 2:23:44 for second place. Ashete Bekere of Ethiopia took third with 2:24:59 while furhter down the field Germany’s Mona Stockhecke finished eighth with a personal best of 2:33:50. Stockhecke, who finished 22nd in the European Championship Marathon, will be back at work this week, combining her rising running career with a full-time job as a research geologist.