Arne Gabius, Fate Tola and Lusapho April ahead of the Hannover Marathon (© Victah Sailer / organisers)
Kenya’s sub-2:07 runners Philip Sanga and Nicholas Kamakya head the start list of the HAJ Hannover Marathon, but South Africa’s defending champion Lusapho April and German marathon record-holder Arne Gabius are very much in the focus ahead of the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (9).
In contrast to the men’s elite field, there is a clear favourite in the women’s race: Germany’s Fate Tola intends to attack the course record of 2:27:07.
Elite race coordinator Christoph Kopp plans a more conservative approach for the men’s race. “We will instruct pacemakers to go through half way in 65 minutes,” he said. “Aside from the two Kenyans with personal bests of sub 2:07, we have a well-balanced field, so it could get very interesting in the second half.”
April’s course record of 2:08:32 from 2013, which is also his personal best, is not a primary goal for the organisers. But the South African has different ideas.
“The weather forecast looks good and if the pacemakers are doing well then I want to attack the record,” said April, whose main goal for the year is the World Championships. “It is some time ago that I ran that fast and it is time now to do it again.
“I feel fine and my training has gone well,” added the 34-year-old, who has won the Hannover Marathon a record three times. “I am in better shape than last year. It is great to be back in Hannover. This is like second home for me.”
Gabius’s German record is just one second slower than April’s course record. The 36-year-old clocked 2:08:33 in Frankfurt in October 2015 and took the 27 year-old national record from Jörg Peter. Since that race, however, Gabius hasn’t finished a marathon. He dropped out of London a year ago and was then forced to withdraw from the Olympics due to an injury. He was only able to resume training at Christmas time last year.
“I am happy that I am back after almost a year,” said the 2012 European 5000m silver medallist. “I feel fine, but I cannot make a projection regarding my time. However it is my goal to finish on the podium.”
It is likely that April’s and Gabius’s main rivals will be Kenyans Philip Sanga, Nicholas Kamakya and Allan Kiprono. Sanga clocked his personal best of 2:06:07 back in 2011 in Frankfurt while Kamakya ran his PB of 2:06:34 in the same year in Amsterdam. Kiprono ran 2:09:38 in Frankfurt in 2014.
Sondre Moen might also be in for a surprise. The Norwegian has a PB of 2:12:54 and was 19th in the Olympic marathon last year.
With no other sub-2:30 runners on the start list, Fate Tola is the big favourite in the women’s race. Tola missed out on the Olympic marathon because her German citizenship was only finalised two weeks after the Rio entry deadline, but she bounced back in Frankfurt last autumn to finish second in 2:25:42, her second-fastest time ever.
The two-time Vienna City Marathon champion was second with 2:25:42 and clocked her second fastest time ever.
After training in Ethiopia she hopes for a similar or even faster time on Sunday. “My aim is to run the first half in 73 minutes,” said the two-time Vienna City Marathon champion, who looks certain to secure nomination for the World Championships in London. The 29-year-old could also break the course record of 2:27:07 set by Olena Burkovska in 2013 on Hannover’s flat course.
“We already have an entry record,” said race director Stefanie Eichel. “Adding the running events at shorter distances, entry figures currently point to a final total of more than 22,000 athletes. We would be absolutely delighted if we could achieve this mark.”
Organisers for the IAAF
Philip Sanga (KEN) 2:06:07
Nicholas Kamakya (KEN) 2:06:34
Lusapho April (RSA) 2:08:32
Arne Gabius (GER) 2:08:33
Allan Kiprono (KEN) 2:09:38
Sondre Moen (NOR) 2:12:54
Boaz Kipyego (KEN) 2:12:59
Daniel da Silva (BRA) debut
Hideyuki Ikegami (JPN) debut
Fate Tola (GER) 2:25:14
Nataliya Lehonkova (UKR) 2:30:40
Tetyana Vernygor (UKR) 2:31:34
Mulunesh Asefa (ETH) 2:34:10
Banuelia Katesigwa (TAN) 2:34:54
Maryanne Wanjiru (KEN) debut
Eunice Kioko (KEN) debut