The 25th edition of the HAJ Hannover Marathon on Sunday (19) will be boosted by the strongest elite entry in the history of the IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
Six Kenyan men with personal bests faster than 2:08 are on the start list. Among them are Benjamin Kiptoo, who won the 2011 Paris Marathon with 2:06:31, and Josphat Ndambiri, winner of the Fukuoka Marathon in the same year with 2:07:36.
Defending champion Souad Ait Salem of Algeria is the fastest on the women’s start list with a personal best of 2:25:08, but she will be pushed by improving Ukrainian Olga Kotovska.
On a flat course, organisers hope for a course record in the men’s race on Sunday. The 2:08:32 set two years ago by South Africa’s Lusapho April is the target. With a good weather forecast, though perhaps some wind, pacemakers will be instructed to guide the first group to a 1:03:30 half-way split.
While Kiptoo and Ndambiri have each won two major marathons, there are four other Kenyans who belong to the group of favourites in Hannover. Augustine Ronoh has a personal best of 2:07:23 from a third place in Hamburg in 2012 while Jacob Cheshari was fourth in Frankfurt one-and-a-half years ago with 2:07:46.
Elite race coordinator Christoph Kopp has a habit of handing out bib number 7 to an athlete he expects to do well or to cause an upset. In Hannover he has handed this number to 24-year-old Ronald Korir. He was a pacemaker in last year’s Frankfurt Marathon, but stayed in the race beyond the 30km point and finished sixth with 2:07:29 in what was his first ever race over the full marathon distance.
The fastest man in the field is Mariko Kipchumba. The Kenyan clocked a PB of 2:06:05 when he won the Reims Marathon in 2012. Although he is 40 years old, Kipchumba is still going strong. A year ago he won the Xiamen Marathon with 2:08:06.
An Ethiopian challenge could come from Chala Bekele, who improved to 2:10:28 earlier this year in Marrakech, and late entry Gezahegn Hunde. Hunde competed in last Sunday’s Rotterdam Marathon but dropped out early after problems. He looked for a second opportunity and got this in Hannover.
Falk Cierpinski carries national hopes in Hannover. The son of double Olympic marathon champion Waldemar Cierpinski has a PB of 2:13:30 from 2008.
Salem wants a trouble-free run
“When I ran here in Hannover last year I suffered with a foot problem from 30km onwards,” said defending women’s champion Salem, who clocked 2:33:09 last year. “This time I want to show what I am capable of – I want to win the race again but achieve a better time.”
The 36-year-old Algerian hopes to run somewhere in the region of 2:28:00. “I like Hannover’s flat course and the atmosphere was great, that also made me come back,” added Salem, who does not do any high altitude training. “High altitude does not work for me. So I always train in Algiers.”
Next year she intends to run the Rio Olympic marathon in what would be her fourth Olympic appearance.
While Germany’s Lisa Hahner had to withdraw because of a stress fracture, Ukraine’s Olga Kotovska looks to be Salem’s main rival.
The 31-year-old has won her two most recent marathons, taking big chunks off her personal best on each occasion. After winning in Bournemouth two years ago in a big PB of 2:30:04, she triumphed in Rennes last year in 2:28:47. Earlier this year she won the Granollers Half Marathon in 1:13:21.
Kenyan debutante Maryanne Wanjiru, who won the Paderborn Half Marathon two weeks ago with 1:11:12, could also do well.
Adding other running events staged parallel on Sunday, a record number of 19,000 athletes have so far registered.
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF
Elite fields (with PBs)
Mariko Kipchumba (KEN) 2:06:05
Benjamin Kiptoo (KEN) 2:06:31
Augustine Ronoh (KEN) 2:07:23
Ronald Korir (KEN) 2:07:29
Josphat Ndambiri (KEN) 2:07:36
Jacob Cheshari (KEN) 2:07:46
Weldon Kirui (KEN) 2:09:06
Gezahegn Hunde (ETH) 2:10:17
Chala Bekele (ETH) 2:10:26
Martin Kosgey (KEN) 2:11:37
Munyo Mutai (KEN) 2:12:26
Falk Cierpinski (GER) 2:13:30
Souad Ait Salem (ALG) 2:25:08
Olga Kotovska (UKR) 2:28:47
Ayantu Hailemaryam (ETH) 2:33:59
Mapaseka Makhanya (RSA) 2:36:36
Maryanne Wanjiru (KEN) debut