Promising fast times and competitive racing, Tadese Tola of Ethiopia and Kenyans Mark Korir and Cyprian Kotut will aim to steal the spotlight in the men's race and Mamitu Daska the women's at the 35th Mainova Frankfurt Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (30).
The weather forecast calls for good conditions, setting a likely scene for a high-class race to develop once more on the flat course beside the river Main.
Tola, Korir and Kotut are targetting a sub-2:06 performance while Daska has designs on the women's course record which would enter her into the sub-2:21 ranks.
Tola the targetted
Tola is the fastest runner on the start list and the Ethiopian has the advantage of knowing the course. The 28-year-old arrives in Frankfurt with a personal best of 2:04:49, which he ran in Dubai in 2013. In 2010 he was leading in Frankfurt with nine kilometres to go, only to be overhauled by Wilson Kipsang and had to settle for second place in 2:06:31.
"I think I can run faster now than in 2010," Tola said. "Actually, I will try to go for a personal best. I am confident, because I have trained well for three months for this race."
The three leading contenders in the men's race bring big-race credentials to the start line, with each having won the Paris Marathon. Tola took that title in 2010, Korir in 2015 and Kotut this year.
"When I won in Paris last year I had not expected such a success," said Korir, 28, who clocked his 2:05:49 in the French capital in 2015. "Now I have more experience and I think that I am capable of running sub-2:05 if weather conditions are fine and we work together.
Kotut eager to come out from the shadows of big brother Martin Lel
At 24, Kotut is the youngest of the trio but comes armed with strong marathon-running genes as a younger brother of Martin Lel, the multiple London and New York City Marathon winner who has played a decisive role in his development as an elite athlete.
"Knowing that Martin was so successful, this gave me confidence," said Kotut, who is coached by Claudio Berardelli in Kapsabet. "I knew that with good training I would have a very good chance of running well."
Explaining the brothers' relationship, Kotut said: "Martin plays a major role. I don’t do anything without speaking to him, so he is like a coach as well. And it was Martin who told me to go to Frankfurt, because he knew that this course is really fast and that I could do well here. This is why I am here."
Kotut set his current best of 2:07:11 when winning in Paris last spring.
"I am confident that I will be faster on Sunday."
Daska gunning for sub-2:21
While the men’s course record of 2:03:42 set by Kipsang in 2011 is likely out of reach on Sunday, the women’s mark of 2:21:01, set by Meselech Melkamu in 2012, could be in danger. That's Daska's stated intention, if the conditions allow.
"I have trained for times of 2:18 to 2:19", said the 33-year-old, who has plenty of experience racing on the streets of Frankfurt. She won the event in 2011 with 2:21:59, still her personal best. In 2012 she finished third and a year later was fourth. "If the weather is fine, the course record is definitely a goal."
With last year’s runner-up Dinkinesh Mekash of Ethiopia withdrawing on short notice for personal reasons, Sutume Asefa Kebede has emerged as Daska's likeliest rival.
Kebede, 22, has a personal best of 2:24:00 from Dubai this January. However, her Ethiopian 25km record of 1:21:55 set in Berlin last year suggests that she could run quite a bit faster.
"It will be my third marathon on Sunday, so I have more experience now," Kebede said. "It is my goal to improve my PB and my plan is to run the first half in 71 minutes.
"I often race in Germany and always enjoy the atmosphere. It feels almost like a second home here, the fans are so encouraging and I'm looking forward to Sunday."
Sunday's contest will also be a special race for the former Ethiopian Fate Tola. She received German citizenship in the summer, but the documents arrived too late for her to be included on the Rio-bound Olympic team.
"I'm very much looking forward to this race, especially since the German championships are included in the event," said Tola who has twice won the Vienna City Marathon (2011 and 2012) and has a PB of 2:25:14. "My aim is to run the first half in 72:30 to 73:00 minutes and then we will see what is possible."
To date, 15,500 runners have entered to run the marathon. Including the events staged parallel to the main race, 26,000 are expected to part in this jubilee edition.
Organisers for the IAAF