Our Preview of the Highlights of the Spring Marathon Season

By Jörg Wenig

Dennis Kimetto and Lelisa Desisa Run in Boston
Wilson Kipsang versus Geoffrey Mutai in London
Kenenisa Bekele Makes his Debut in Paris
Eliud Kipchoge Starts in Rotterdam
Selected Spring Races

The start of the elite women’s race at the 2013 Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. © www.PhotoRun.net
The start of the elite women’s race at the 2013 Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. © www.PhotoRun.net
Spring is here once again, bringing not only beautiful flowers in bloom but also the stirring start to the marathon season. This year all eyes will be on three top-class distance runners who will be making their debut over 26.2 miles in April. Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia begins the latest chapter of his career in Paris on Sunday and just a week later his British rival Mo Farah and Kenenisa’s compatriot, Tirunesh Dibaba, will both be running in London. Between them this amazing trio own eight Olympic gold medals at 5,000m and 10,000m.

Over the next six weekends, we will see races boasting some of the best fields ever assembled. Once again, London has a strong field, and Boston—like its British counterpart, a member of the World Marathon Majors (WMM)—has an equally impressive start list. But there are other races in the spring season which have the potential for fast times. Kenenisa Bekele might be dreaming of improving in Paris the world record of 2:03:23 set by Wilson Kipsang in Berlin last year—but that amazing time might be under threat in Rotterdam, too, from Eliud Kipchoge.

Dennis Kimetto und Lelisa Desisa Head into Boston as Favorites

Dennis Kimetto, seen here at the 2013 Tokyo Marathon, aims for victory in Boston after winning in Tokyo and Chicago. © www.PhotoRun.net
Dennis Kimetto, seen here at the 2013 Tokyo Marathon, aims for victory in Boston after winning in Tokyo and Chicago. © www.PhotoRun.net
The 118th edition of the Boston Marathon will take place on Easter Monday, April 21 and in spite of the withdrawal of one of the favorites, Moses Mosop, the strength in depth of the elite field remains outstanding. The 28-year-old Kenyan, who ran 2:03:06 on his marathon debut in Boston three years ago, was unable to reach top form in time and will instead participate in the Prague Marathon on May 11. But seventeen marathoners who have clocked under 2:10 will be at the start line, with Dennis Kimetto of Kenya considered a pre-race favorite. Dennis won last fall’s Chicago Marathon, improving his personal best to 2:03:45. He has never competed on a hilly course such as Boston, however, and his strongest challenger could well be the defending champion, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia.

The women’s champion of last year will also be in the lineup: Rita Jeptoo of Kenya (2:19:57) will face the strong Ethiopian duo of Mare Dibaba, who is the fastest in the field with 2:19:52, and Meseret Hailu, the 2012 World Half-Marathon champion. Meseret has a best time of 2:21:09 and was second in Boston last year. Caroline Kilel (Kenya), the 2011 champion, is also running and last year she returned to form by setting a personal best of 2:22:34 in Frankfurt.

Last year’s tragic events in Boston forced the 117th edition of the race to be brought to an early close and approximately 5,600 runners did not reach the finish. Every one of them was offered a guaranteed place by the organizers and most have taken it. Also, because of the additional strong demand for entries, the size of the field has been adjusted to meet these exceptional circumstances. A total of 36,000 bibs have been allocated and that figure has only been exceeded on one occasion: when 38,708 runners stood on the start line for the race’s 100th edition.

Uta with Dick and Rick Hoyt and the charity runners of the Hoyt Foundation before the 2012 Boston Marathon. © www.PhotoRun.net
Uta with Dick and Rick Hoyt and the charity runners of the Hoyt Foundation before the 2012 Boston Marathon. © www.PhotoRun.net
Uta, who won this historic marathon for three consecutive years from 1994 to 1996, will again be in Boston this year to support father-and-son wheelchair racers Dick and Rick Hoyt, as well as the athletes of the Hoyt Foundation whom she has trained over the past months, and her many running friends. Uta herself will be taking part in the B.A.A. 5K two days before the marathon.

You can find more information about the marathon weekend in “Uta’s Appearances,” here on our Website.

In London, World-Record Holder Wilson Kipsang Faces Geoffrey Mutai, the Fastest Marathoner Ever

The Olympic champion, Mo Farah, seen here at the 2012 Olympic Games, makes his marathon debut in London. © www.PhotoRun.net
The Olympic champion, Mo Farah, seen here at the 2012 Olympic Games, makes his marathon debut in London. © www.PhotoRun.net
The streets of the British capital will be filled with fast runners on April 13. World-record holder Wilson Kipsang (Kenya/2:03:23) will take on the fastest man of all time for the distance, fellow countryman Geoffrey Mutai, whose 2:03:02 hours in Boston remains “unofficial” because the course does not conform to official world-record requirements. They will be joined by an array of talented challengers: Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda; course-record holder Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya/2:03:52), who took the title with 2:04:40 three years ago; fast Ethiopian Ayele Abshero (2:04:23); and Tsegaye Mekonnen, also of Ethiopia, who triumphed at the Dubai Marathon in January with an unofficial world junior record of 2:04:32. And we should not forget debutants Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia, who won the world 10,000-meter title in 2011, and the double-Olympic champion, Mo Farah. Mo’s objective is likely to be the British record of 2:07:13, achieved by Steve Jones when he triumphed in Chicago in 1985.

The women’s Olympic champion, Tirunesh Dibaba, seen here 2013 in Moscow, begins her marathon career in London. © www.PhotoRun.net
The women’s Olympic champion, Tirunesh Dibaba, seen here 2013 in Moscow, begins her marathon career in London. © www.PhotoRun.net
Adding to the excitement, Haile Gebrselassie, who has twice set the world marathon record, will be participating as well. His role will be pacing the athletes on world-record tempo to 30K, and it will be no easy matter for the 41-year-old to run the target time of 1:27:40.

While media interest has concentrated on Mo Farah and his challengers, the women’s field has faded into the background somewhat. But this race is hardly inferior in quality. On the start line alongside the Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia will be the powerful Kenyan contingent of the world champion Edna Kiplagat and the new world-record holder for the half marathon, Florence Kiplagat (65:12), as well as the defending champion, Priscah Jeptoo.

Priscah has shown commanding form with her wins at the Ras Al Khaimah half marathon in the United Arab Emirates and at Newcastle in the North of England where she defeated the triple-Olympic champion, Tirunesh Dibaba. But expectations remain high for the 28-year-old Ethiopian in the half and full marathon and it is possible that Tirunesh will produce a sparkling marathon debut.

Kenenisa Bekele Makes his Marathon Debut in Paris

Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele’s, seen here at the Diamond League race 2011 in Brussels, marathon debut in Paris is eagerly anticipated. © www.PhotoRun.net
Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele’s, seen here at the Diamond League race 2011 in Brussels, marathon debut in Paris is eagerly anticipated. © www.PhotoRun.net
Kenenisa Bekele’s decision to make Paris the site of his first marathon was a surprise to the running world. Initially, the talk was that the Ethiopian champion would take on the super-flat and potentially world-record course at the Dubai Marathon. Then speculation switched to the London Marathon. But in the end, the 31-year-old picked Paris for his debut.

Kenenisa owns several world records and titles at shorter distances, but the field he faces in Paris is hardly easy. The one runner in the field with a best of under 2:06 is Abdullah Shami. The Ethiopian runner produced two strong performances two years ago: He was seventh in Dubai with 2:05:42 followed by a victory in Hamburg, Germany, with 2:05:58. Since then, he has not been able to go under 2:08. Another runner who has broken 2:07 is the Kenyan Mark Kiptoo, who finished second in Frankfurt last October with 2:06:16. Another seven athletes will be there with personal bests under 2:10.

Valentine Kipketer is the favorite for the women’s title. The 21-year-old Kenyan has improved greatly and won the Amsterdam Marathon last autumn in 2:23:05.

Can Eliud Kipchoge Better his Time of 2:04:05 in Rotterdam?

Eliud Kipchoge could run close to the world record in Rotterdam. © www.PhotoRun.net
Eliud Kipchoge could run close to the world record in Rotterdam. © www.PhotoRun.net
Rotterdam might well have a very fast men’s race. Eliud Kipchoge is at the start line with a best of 2:04:05, recorded when he finished second to Wilson Kipsang’s world-record run in Berlin last year. Running his third marathon, the 29-year-old Kenyan could come close to the world record on this fast Dutch course.

Vienna and Hamburg: Additional Spring Highlights

While Henry Sugut of Kenya (2:06:58) will be going for an unprecedented fourth win in Vienna, his female compatriot, Caroline Chepkwony, is the favorite among the women. She is not the fastest on paper with a best of 2:27:27 but she showed strong form at the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon in February, winning in 68:48 minutes. Anna Hahner from Germany has a best time of 2:27:55 and also has hopes for a podium finish.

Hamburg captured one of the sport’s biggest names this year: Haile Gebrselassie, the former world-record holder (2:03:59), is going for the masters world record at the age of 41. The current best in this age group is the 2:08:46 set by Andres Espinosa of Mexico. This will be no easy task for Haile. The race takes place just three weeks after his scheduled pacemaking duties to 30K at the London Marathon, and for a number of years he avoided races in Europe during the spring marathon season because of problems with allergies. Martin Lel of Kenya, whose best is 2:05:15, is another world-class marathoner who is running Hamburg.

Kenenisa Bekele: “My Dream Is to Break the World Record on my Debut”

Kenenisa Bekele. © www.PhotoRun.net
Kenenisa Bekele. © www.PhotoRun.net
Kenenisa Bekele will make his marathon debut in Paris on Sunday. The 31-year-old Ethiopian has won three Olympic titles in an outstanding career that also includes numerous world cross-country gold medals and five world championship titles on the track. He still holds the world 5,000m and 10,000m records. Kenenisa gave this interview before his Paris race.

Have you changed your training in the run-up to the marathon?

Kenenisa Bekele: Yes, I have changed some things. I now run further and work less on my speed. In January, I ran a cross-country race in Edinburgh, but I didn’t have the speed I needed to win. This was the result of a lack of specific training. I am really preparing for the marathon.

What time are you aiming for in this first 26.2-mile race of your career?

Kenenisa: My dream is to break the world record in my first marathon. But I know that the Paris course is maybe not ideal for achieving this goal. In any case, I’ll do my best to get a good time. My dream has always been to be the best!

Do you feel under any particular pressure in running this marathon?

Kenenisa: I know that everyone will be looking at whether Mo Farah and I get off to a good start [in our marathon careers], but I don’t feel any particular pressure. I’m preparing well and I’m not worried about anything at all.

In your opinion, who is the greatest marathon runner of all time?

Kenenisa: As an Ethiopian, I particularly admire Abebe Bikila who won the Olympic Games in Rome [1960] and Tokyo [1964] and who beat the world record. He is a legend in Ethiopian sport and a great source of inspiration to me. My dream is to follow in his footsteps and win the Olympic marathon title.

Dates and Leading Runners of Selected Spring Races

Paris—April 6

IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: approx. 50,000
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.SchneiderElectricParisMarathon.com
TV: Live on France 3 and live-stream on internet www.FranceTVSport.fr

Prize Money: approx. $20,500 or $41,000 (depending on times)
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): between approx. $121,000 und $235,000 (depending on times)

Course Records:
2:05:10 Stanley Biwott (KEN/2012)
2:21:04 Boru Tadese (ETH/2013)

Elite Athletes and Best Times:
Men: Abdullah Shami (ETH) 2:05:42, Mark Kiptoo (KEN) 2:06:16, Getachew Terfa (ETH) 2:07:32, Limenih Getachew (ETH) 2:07:35, Gezahagn Girma (ETH) 2:07:41, Lukas Kanda (KEN) 2:08:04, Gideon Kipketer (KEN) 2:08:14, Mike Kigen (KEN) 2:08:24, Simon Munyutu (FRA) 2:09:24, Gregoriy Andreyev (RUS) 2:10:25, Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) Debut.
Women: Valentine Kipketer (KEN) 2:23:02, Flomena Cheyech (KEN) 2:24:34, Meskerem Assefa (ETH) 2:25:17, Martha Komu (FRA) 2:25:33, Zemzem Ahmed (ETH) 2:27:12, Sarah Chepchirchir (KEN) Debut.

London—April 13

World Marathon Majors (WMM) Race
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: approx. 50,000
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.VirginMoneyLondonMarathon.com
TV: Live on BBC One, BBC Red Button, and 5 live, Eurosport and Sky Sport and live-stream on internet (UniversalSports.com)

Prize Money: $55,000
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): $295,000

Course Records:
2:04:40 Emmanuel Mutai (KEN/2011)
2:15:25 Paula Radcliffe (GRB/2003/WR)

Elite Athletes and Best Times:
Men: Geoffrey Mutai (KEN) 2:03:02, Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 2:03:23, Emmanuel Mutai (KEN) 2:03:52, Ayele Abshero (ETH) 2:04:23, Feyisa Lilesa (ETH) 2:04:52, Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 2:04:38, Stanley Biwott (KEN) 2:05:12, Marilson dos Santos (BRA) 2:06:34, Martin Mathathi (KEN) 2:07:16, Stephen Kiprotich (UGA) 2:07:20, Samuel Tsegay (ERI) 2:07:28, Mustapha El Aziz (MAR) 2:07:55, Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 2:08:17, Scott Overall (GBR) 2:10:55, Mo Farah (GBR) Debut, Ibrahim Jeilan (ETH) Debut, Chris Thompson (GBR) Debut.
Women: Tiki Gelana (ETH) 2:18:58, Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:44, Edna Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:50, Priscah Jeptoo (KEN) 2:20:14, Aberu Kebede (ETH) 2:20:30, Feysa Tadesse (ETH) 2:21:06, Tetyana Hamera-Shmyrko (UKR) 2:23:58, Jéssica Augusto (POR) 2:24:33, Kim Smith (NZL) 2:25:21, Ana Dulce Félix (POR) 2:25:40, Nadia Ejjafini (ITA) 2:26:15, Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) Debut.

Rotterdam—April 13

IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: approx. 12,500
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.MarathonRotterdam.nl
TV: Live on RTV Rijnmond and live-stream on internet (UniversalSports.com and NOS.nl)

Prize Money: depending on winning time
Total Prize Money: max. $ 1 Million

Course Records:
2:04:27 Duncan Kibet (KEN/2009), James Kwambai (KEN/2009)
2:18:58 Tiki Gelana (ETH/2012)

Elite Athletes and Best Times:
Men: Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:04:05, Bernard Koech (KEN) 2:04:53, Albert Matebor (KEN) 2:05:25, Jafred Kipchumba (KEN) 2:05:48, Girmay Birhanu (ETH) 2:05:49 – further athletes as yet unknown.
Women: as yet unknown.

Vienna—April 13

IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: approx. 11,000
Entry still possible: No
Website: www.Vienna-Marathon.com

Prize Money: approx. $20,500
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): approx. $96,500

Course Records:
2:06:58 Henry Sugut (KEN/2012)
2:23:47 Maura Viceconte (ITA/2000)

Elite Athletes and Best Times:
Men: Getu Feleke (ETH) 2:04:50, Philip Kimutai (KEN) 2:06:07, Henry Sugut (KEN) 2:06:58, John Kiprotich (KEN) 2:07:08, Alfred Kering (KEN) 2:07:11, Moses Kigen (KEN) 2:07:45, Duncan Koech (KEN) 2:07:53, Geoffrey Ndungu (KEN) 2:08:35, Ryo Yamamoto (JPN) 2:08:44, Maswai Kiptanui (KEN) 2:08:53, Oleksandr Sitkovsky (UKR) 2:09:14, Felix Kiprotich (KEN) 2:09:43, Aleksey Reunkov (RUS) 2:09:54, Wilfred Kirwa Kigen (KEN) no best time available, Timothy Kiptoo (KEN) Debut.
Women: Mai Ito (JPN) 2:25:26, Olga Glok (RUS) 2:27:12, Caroline Chepkwony (KEN) 2:27:27, Jimma Fantu (ETH) 2:27:36, Anna Hahner (Run2Sky/Fulda) 2:27:55, Marta Lema (ETH) 2:28:02, Alice Chelangat (KEN) 2:29:47, Olha Kalenarova-Ochal (POL) 2:31:33.

Boston—April 21

World Marathon Majors (WMM) Race
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 36,000
Entry still possible: No
Website: www.BAA.org
TV: Live on WBZ-TV and live-stream on internet (Boston.CBSLocal.com and UniversalSports.com)

Prize Money: $150,000
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): $746,000

Course Records:
2:03:02 Geoffrey Mutai (KEN/2011)
2:20:43 Margaret Okayo (KEN/2002)

Elite Athletes and Best Times:
Men: Dennis Kimetto (KEN) 2:03:45, Lelisa Desisa (ETH) 2:04:45, Gebregziabher Gebremariam (ETH) 2:04:53, Markos Geneti (ETH) 2:04:54, Wilson Chebet (KEN) 2:05:27, Tilahun Regassa (ETH) 2:05:27, Shami Dawud (ETH) 2:05:42, Eric Ndiema (KEN) 2:06:07, Frankline Chepkwony (KEN) 2:06:11, Micah Kogo (KEN) 2:06:56, Adil Annani (MAR) 2:07:43, Paul Lonyangata (KEN) 2:07:44, Dathan Ritzenhein (USA) 2:07:47, Joel Kimurer (KEN) 2:07:48, Lusapho April (RSA) 2:08:32, Mebrahtom Keflezighi (USA) 2:09:08, Brett Gotcher (USA) 2:10:36, Jeffrey Hunt (AUS) 2:11:00.
Women: Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:19:52, Rita Jeptoo (KEN) 2:19:57, Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (KEN) 2:20:48, Meseret Hailu (ETH) 2:21:09, Eunice Kirwa (KEN) 2:21:41, Sharon Cherop (KEN) 2:22:28, Caroline Kilel (KEN) 2:22:34, Desiree Davila-Linden (USA) 2:22:38, Flomena Chepchichir Chumba (KEN) 2:23:00, Buzunesh Deba (ETH) 2:23:19, Tatiana Petrova Arkhipova (RUS) 2:23:29, Aleksandra Duliba (BLR) 2:23:44, Yeshi Esayias (ETH) 2:24:06, Philes Ongori (KEN) 2:24:20, Belaynesh Oljira (ETH) 2:25:01, Shalane Flanagan (USA) 2:25:38, Yolanda Caballero (COL) 2:26:17, Amy Hastings (USA) 2:27:03, Lanni Marchant (CAN) 2:28:00, Serena Burla (USA) 2:28:01, Noriko Higuchi (JPN) 2:28:49, Adriana Nelson (USA) 2:28:52, Adriana Aparecida da Silva (BRA) 2:29:17.

Hamburg—May 4

Entries: planned approx. 17,000
Entry still possible: Yes
Website: www.Haspa-Marathon-Hamburg.de

Prize Money: approx. $20,500 or $41,000 (depending on times)
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): between approx. $106,800 und $213,600 (depending on times)

Course Records:
2:05:30 Eliud Kipchoge (KEN/2013)
2:24:12 Netsanet Abeyo (ETH/2012)

Elite Athletes and Best Times:
Men: Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 2:03:59, Martin Lel (KEN) 2:05:15 – further athletes as yet unknown.
Women: Madai Perez (MEX) 2:22:59, Dinknesh Mekasha (ETH) 2:25:09, Melkam Gizaw (ETH) 2:26:24—further athletes as yet unknown.

World Marathon Majors (WMM)
Rankings for the Season 2013-2014

Each WMM Series takes place over a two-year cycle. Each victory is worth 25 points and fifth place earns one point. The series’ winners share equally prize money of one million dollars. For more information please visit www.WorldMarathonMajors.com.

Men:

 1.   Dennis Kimetto (KEN)   50 Points 
 2.   Tsegaye Kebede (ETH)   45 
 3.   Lelisa Desisa (ETH)   40 
 4.   Emmanuel Mutai (KEN)   30 
 5.   Wilson Kipsang (KEN)   26 
 6.   Dickson Chumba (KEN)   25 
     Stephen Kiprotich (UGA)   25 
    Geoffrey Mutai (KEN)   25 
     Tadese Tola (ETH)   25 
 10.   Michael Kipyego (KEN)   20 
    Sammy Kitwara (KEN)   20 
    Micah Kogo (KEN)   20 

Women:

 1.   Priscah Jeptoo (KEN)   50 Points 
     Rita Jeptoo (KEN)   50 
 3.   Edna Kiplagat (KEN)   40 
 4.   Tirfi Tsegaye (ETH)   26 
 5.   Sharon Cherop (KEN)   25 
     Aberu Kebede (ETH)   25 
     Florence Kiplagat (KEN)   25 
 8.   Irina Mikitenko (GER)nbsp;  20 
 9.   Valeria Straneo (ITA)   16 
 10.   Buzunesh Deba (ETH)   15 
    Birhane Dibaba (ETH)   15 
    Yeshi Esayias (ETH)   15 
    Meseret Hailu (ETH)   15 
     Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (KEN)   15 

The Ten Fastest Marathons in History*

Men:

 2:03:23 Hours   Wilson Kipsang   KEN   Berlin (GER)   09.29.2013 
 2:03:38   Patrick Makau   KEN   Berlin (GER)   09.25.2011 
 2:03:42   Wilson Kipsang   KEN   Frankfurt (GER)   10.30.2011 
 2:03:45   Dennis Kimetto   KEN   Chicago (USA)   10.13.2013 
 2:03:52   Emmanuel Mutai   KEN   Chicago (USA)   10.13.2013 
 2:03:59   Haile Gebrselassie     ETH   Berlin (GER)   09.28.2008 
 2:04:05   Eluid Kipchoge   KEN   Berlin (GER)   09.29.2013 
 2:04:15   Geoffrey Mutai   KEN   Berlin (GER)   09.30.2012 
 2:04:16   Dennis Kimetto   KEN   Berlin (GER)   09.30.2012 
 2:04:23   Ayele Abshero   ETH   Dubai (UAE)   01.27.2012 

*Boston Marathon

 2:03:02 Hours   Geoffrey Mutai   KEN   Boston (USA)   04.18.2011 
 2:03:06   Moses Mosop   KEN   Boston (USA)   04.18.2011 

Times set at the Boston Marathon cannot be recognized as official records since the course does not meet requirements (max. drop of one meter per kilometer, start and finish should be a max. 50% of the course distance apart.)

Women:

 2:15:25 Hours   Paula Radcliffe   GBR   London (GBR)   04.13.2003 
 2:17:18  Paula Radcliffe   GBR  Chicago (USA)   10.13.2002 
 2:17:42   Paula Radcliffe   GBR   London (GBR)   04.17.2005 
 2:18:20   Liliya Shobukhova   RUS   Chicago (USA)   10.09.2011 
 2:18:37   Mary Keitany   KEN   London (GBR)   04.22.2012 
 2:18:47   Catherine Ndereba   KEN   Chicago (USA)   10.07.2001 
 2:18:56   Paula Radcliffe   GBR   London (GBR)   04.14.2002 
 2:18:58   Tiki Gelana   ETH   Rotterdam (NED)   04.15.2012 
 2:19:12   Mizuki Noguchi   JPN   Berlin (GER)   09.25.2005 
 2:19:19   Irina Mikitenko   GER   Berlin (GER)   09.28.2008