Featuring the strongest fields ever, organisers of Sunday's Metro Group Marathon Dusseldorf are hoping for new course records to celebrate the race's 10th edition.
The men’s field at this IAAF Bronze Label Road Race has never been as strong with Ethiopians Seboka Diriba Tola and Kebebush Haile Lema the favourites. A group of strong African runners will be challenged by Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi.
In what are expected to be fine weather conditions the men’s leading group is expected to go through half way in 1:03:50, a pace well inside the present course record of 2:08:32 set by Iaroslav Musinschi of Moldova two years ago. Tola will be the favourite after improving to 2:06:17 in Dubai in January. With this personal best he is the fastest runner ever entered in Dusseldorf.
But regarding the depth of the men’s elite field this is also unique for this race. Besides Tola there are five more runners who have been faster than 2:09: Kenyans Joseph Ngeny (2:08:10), Evans Ruto (2:08:36), Duncan Koech (2:08:38) and Abraham Chelanga (2:08:43) and Japan's Yuki Kawauchi (2:08:37). Additionally the defending champion Nahashon Kimaiyo will also return. The Kenyan, who has a PB of 2:10:36, clocked 2:10:53 in very warm conditions last year.
"On Sunday I want to show in Dusseldorf that I can compete with the Africans," Kawauchi said at a press conference on Friday. "My goal is to run at least 2:10 here. If they run 63:50 for half way, this will be fine for me. I have already run a 63:30 split in Tokyo before."
For Kawauchi this will be his first race in Europe. He is aware that there is quite a big Japanese community in Dusseldorf. "I want to show them something on Sunday," he said.
In the women’s race organisers hope that the eight-year-old course record set by Germany's Luminita Zaituc (2:26:44) will finally be broken. Kebebush Haile Lema is touted as one runner to be able to top the mark Zaituc set in 2004. The 26-year-old Ethiopian enters the event with a personal best of 2:24:09.
Fellow-Ethiopians Gishu Mindaye (2:28:30), Melkam Gisaw (2:29:12) and Fantu Eticha Jimma (2:30:25) are also expected to perform well. Kenya’s Agnes Jeruto also plans to run a very fast debut Marathon. While her Half Marathon best of 1:12:03 does not suggest something spectacular she is targeting a 2:25 time.
Two German runners hope to beat the national qualifying time for the Olympics. Jan Fitschen, the 10,000m European champion from 2006, will have to improve from 2:15:40 to 2:12:00 to book a place in London, while Anna Hahner will have to reach 2:30:00 in her debut. Unfortunately André Pollmächer and Melanie Kraus both had to cancel their starts due to injuries.