Our Preview: A Spring Marathon Season That Promises Thrills and Fast Times

By Jörg Wenig

The Defending Champions Return to Boston
Patrick Makau versus Stephen Kiprotich in London
Geoffrey Kipsang Runs Rotterdam
Selected Spring Races

The start of the elite men’s Boston Marathon last year. © www.PhotoRun.net
The start of the elite men’s Boston Marathon last year. © www.PhotoRun.net

Rotterdam. Boston. London.

In the sporting world in April, the names of these fabled cities conjure up only one thing: the majestic marathon. And incredibly, their three 26.2-mile classics are run over a span of just eight days. They herald a highly-anticipated Spring Marathon Season, with races in Vienna, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Prague and many others following into May. The World Marathon Majors (WMM) races in London and Boston continue to grow in popularity but a number of other events, such as Vienna and Rotterdam, have also noted record entries. In terms of elite athletes, the fields continue to get more and more competitive. Just last January in Dubai, there were no fewer than five runners who went under the 2:05 barrier—something that had never happened before.

With times well under 2 hours and 20 minutes, 2012 was also an outstanding year for the women’s marathon. Britain’s Paula Radcliffe’s world record of 2:15:25, set ten years ago, continues to elude a new generation of runners. Among the men, in contrast, a number of athletes can be considered capable of improving the Kenyan Patrick Makau’s world record of 2:03:38 hours.

Defending Champions Welsey Korir and Sharon Cherop Face Strong Fields in Boston

Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the Boston title in 2010. © www.PhotoRun.net
Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the Boston title in 2010. © www.PhotoRun.net

When Boston celebrates its Patriots’ Day holiday, on April 15 six runners with personal best times of under 2:06 will be on the starting line: the Ethiopian pair of Gebre Gebremariam (2:04:53) and Markos Geneti (2:04:54); Levy Matebo (Kenya/2:05:16); Shami Abdullah Dawit (Ethiopia/2:05:42); Dickson Chumba (Kenya/2:05:46); and the 2010 Boston Marathon victor Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (Kenya/2:05:52). Among their rivals will be the defending champion Wesley Korir. Injury has unfortunately sidelined Americans Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi as well as Kenya’s Moses Mosop this year. Moses would have been the fastest competitor with his time of 2:03:06, set in Boston in 2011.

Sharon Cherop is the defending women’s champion. © www.PhotoRun.net
Sharon Cherop is the defending women’s champion. © www.PhotoRun.net

The women’s field is equally impressive. The Ethiopians Aselefech Mergia (2:19:31) and Meseret Hailu (2:21:09), the current World Half-Marathon champion, are the fastest participants. Among their opponents is the defending champion, Sharon Cherop of Kenya. After a gap of eleven years, some are predicting that the women’s course record of 2:20:43 could be improved this year—or even that we might see a time under 2:20. Eleven women in the field have achieved personal bests of under 2 hours and 26 minutes.

World-Record Holder Patrick Makau Challenges Olympic Champion Stephen Kiprotich in London

Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich returns to London. © www.PhotoRun.net
Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich returns to London. © www.PhotoRun.net

The Virgin London Marathon on April 21 also promises thrills. World-record holder Patrick Makau (Kenya/2:03:38) as well as the Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) and the fastest runner of all time, Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya/2:03:02) will be battling each other. (Geoffrey Mutai achieved his result in Boston, where the course does not meet world record requirements.) In addition, last year’s winner, Wilson Kipsang (Kenya/2:03:42), officially the second-fastest runner in history, and Ethiopian star Ayele Abshero (2:04:23) are also in the mix. This means that seven runners who have times under 2:05 will be on the starting line. Mo Farah, Britain’s double-Olympic champion in the 5,000m and 10,000m, plans to join the men’s elite for the first half of the race.

The women’s line-up in the British capital is equally competitive. Olympic champion Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia/2:18:58), and the Kenyan duo of Florence Kiplagat (2:19:44) and Edna Kiplagat (2:19:50) are the leading runners. Sadly, a leg injury has postponed the eagerly-anticipated debut of the 10,000m Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba. Also absent will be last year’s winner: Mary Keitany of Kenya is expecting her second child. Also pregnant and missing the race is the double-London winner, Liliya Shobukhova from Russia.

Can Geoffrey Kipsang Come Out on Top in Rotterdam?

Geoffrey Kipsang (right), seen here at the 2013 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, is one of the favorites in Rotterdam. © www.PhotoRun.net
Geoffrey Kipsang (right), seen here at the 2013 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, is one of the favorites in Rotterdam. © www.PhotoRun.net

The ABN AMRO Rotterdam Marathon has consistently produced world-class results in recent years, and this year the men’s field has drawn particular attention from running fans.

Geoffrey Kipsang (Kenya) will be among the favorites on April 14. The 2011 World Junior Cross-Country champion finished third in 2:06:12 in his marathon debut last year and in February, he won the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon (United Arab Emirates) in a fast 58:54 against strong opposition.

Vienna and Prague Promise further Highlights this Spring

Henry Sugut will run Vienna again, following his course record in 2012. © www.PhotoRun.net
Henry Sugut will run Vienna again, following his course record in 2012. © www.PhotoRun.net

The Vienna Marathon will also be held on April 14, when last year’s winner, Henry Sugut (Kenya), who ran an Austrian all-comer’s record of 2:06:58, takes on a field that includes his fellow countrymen Jafred Kipchumba (2:05:48) and Gilbert Yegon (2:06:18). In the women’s race, the Ethiopian marathoners Kebebush Haile (2:24:09) and Meskerem Assefa (2:25:17) are the fastest—though Kenya’s Flomena Cheyech Daniel might spring a surprise. Her best time is only 2:34:13, but she won the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon in February in an impressive 67:39.

Ethiopian superstar Haile Gebrselassie will be making his third consecutive appearance in the day’s half marathon. Anticipation is high for this competition which will take place four days before Haile’s 40th birthday.

The Prague Marathon has developed greatly in recent years and looks to have a strong field for the race on May 12. Among the women will be Kenya’s Philes Ongori. After finishing second in the Berlin Half Marathon last Sunday (68:01) she hinted that she wants to run 2:20 in Prague.

Round-Up of Spring Marathon Dates

 April 14   Rotterdam
 Vienna
 April 15    Boston
 April 21  London
 Hamburg
 Turin
 Enschede
 April 28    Düsseldorf
 Madrid
 May   5  Hanover
 May  12  Prague

Dates and Leading Runners of Selected Spring Races

Rotterdam (April 14)

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

Prize Money: depends on winning time
Total Prize Money: $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 their personal bests:
Men: Berhanu Shiferaw (ETH/2:04:48), Getu Feleke (ETH/2:04:50), Bazu Worku (ETH/2:05:25), Tilahun Regassa (ETH/2:05:27), Wilson Chebet (KEN/2:05:27), Sammy Kitwara (KEN/2:05:54), Geoffrey Kipsang (KEN/2:06:12), Assefa Bentayehu (ETH/2:06:22), Atsedu Tsegay (ETH/Debut), John Mwangangi (KEN/Debut).
Women: Hilda Kibet (KEN/2:24:27), Misikir Mekonnin (ETH/2:25:21), Harun Makda (ETH/2:26:46), Alessandra Aguilar (ESP/2:27:00), Abebech Afework (ETH/2:27:08), Mekuria Aberume (ETH/2:27:20), Miranda Boonstra (NED/2:27:32), Jemima Jelagat (KEN/2:28:32), Adriana Nelson (USA/2:28:52).

Vienna (April 14)

IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 10,510
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.Vienna-Marathon.com
TV: Live on ORF

Prize Money: 15,000 Euros
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): 64,500 Euros

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

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Jafred Kipchumba (KEN/2:05:48), Gilbert Yegon (KEN/2:06:18), Henry Sugut (KEN/2:06:58), Peter Kamais (KEN/2:07:37), Solomon Kiptoo (KEN/2:08:30), Geoffrey Ndungu (KEN/2:08:35), Aleksey Sokolov (RUS/2:09:07), Ishmael Bushendich (KEN/2:09:09), Oleksandr Sitkovskyy (UKR/2:09:26).
Women: Kebebush Haile (ETH/2:24:09), Meskerem Assefa (ETH/2:25:17), Rosaria Console (ITA/2:26:10), Emily Samoei (KEN/2:26:52), Olha Kalenarova-Ochal (POL/2:31:33), Flomena Cheyech Daniel (KEN/2:34:13).

Boston (April 15)

World Marathon Majors (WMM) Race
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 27,000
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.BAA.org
TV: Live on WBZ-TV and live-stream on internet (Boston.CBSLocal.com and
www.UniversalSports.com) and live reports on internet (www.BAA.org)

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 their personal bests:
Men: Gebre Gebremariam (ETH/2:04:53), Markos Geneti (ETH/2:04:54), Levy Matebo (KEN/2:05:16), Shami Abdullah Dawit (ETH/2:05:42), Dickson Chumba (KEN/2:05:46), Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (KEN/2:05:52), Wesley Korir (KEN/2:06:15), Raji Assefa (ETH/2:06:24), Abdi Abdirahman (USA/2:08:56), Micah Kogo (KEN/Debut), Lucas Rotich (KEN/Debut).
Women: Aselefech Mergia (ETH/2:19:31), Meseret Hailu (ETH/2:21:09), Mamitu Daska (ETH/2:21:59), Rita Jeptoo (KEN/2:22:04), Sharon Cherop (KEN/2:22:39), Madai Pérez (MEX/2:22:59), Alemita Abera (ETH/2:23:14), Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (UKR/2:24:32), Kara Goucher (USA/2:24:52), Shalane Flanagan (USA/2:25:38), Ana Dulce Félix (POR/2:25:40), Yolanda Caballero (COL/2:26:17), Sabrina Mockenhaupt (LG Sieg/2:26:21), Diana Sigei (KEN/2:26:53), Karolina Jarzynska (POL/2:27:16), Serena Burla (USA/2:28:27).

London (April 21)

World Marathon Majors (WMM) Race
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: appr. 50,000
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.VirginLondonMarathon.com
TV: Live on BBC Sport, Eurosport and Sky Sport and live-stream on internet
(www.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 (GBR/2003/WR)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Geoffrey Mutai (KEN/2:03:02), Patrick Makau (KEN/2:03:38), Wilson Kipsang (KEN/2:03:42), Ayele Abshero (ETH/2:04:23), Tsegaye Kebede (ETH/2:04:38), Emmanuel Mutai (KEN/2:04:40), Feyisa Lilesa (ETH/2:04:52), Stanley Biwott (KEN/2:05:12), Martin Lel (KEN/2:05:15), Deressa Chimsa (ETH/2:05:42), Marilson Gomes dos Santos (BRA/2:06:34), Stephen Kiprotich (UGA/2:07:20), Yared Asmeron (ERI/2:07:27), Adil Annani (MOR/2:07:43).
Women: Tiki Gelana (ETH/2:18:58), Lucy Kabuu (KEN/2:19:34), Florence Kiplagat (KEN/2:19:44), Edna Kiplagat (KEN/2:19:50), Priscah Jeptoo (KEN/2:20:14), Meselech Melkamu (ETH/2:21:01), Atsede Baysa (ETH/2:22:03), Yukiko Akaba (JPN/2:24:09), Remi Nakazato (JPN/2:24:28), Jessica Augusto (POR/2:24:33), Alevtina Biktimirova (RUS/2:25:12), Mai Ito (JPN/2:25:26), Nadia Ejjafini (ITA/2:26:15), Renne Baillie (USA/2:27:17), Olga Dubovskaya (BLR/2:28:08), Adriana Da Silva (BRA/2:29:17), Freya Ross (GBR/2:28:10), Joyce Chepkirui (KEN/Debut).

Hamburg (April 21)

Entries: appr. 15,000
Entries still possible: Yes
Website: www.Haspa-Marathon-Hamburg.de
TV: Live on NDR

Prize Money: 12,000 Euros
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): 73,000 Euros

Course Records:
2:05:58 Shami Dawit (ETH/2012)
2:24:12 Netsanet Abeyo (ETH/2012)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Chala Dechasa (ETH/2:06:33), Joseph Gitau (ETH/2:06:58), Lawrence Kimaiyo (KEN/2:07:01), Limenih Getachew (ETH/2:07:39), Daniel Abera (ETH/2:08:52), Wilson Kiprop (KEN/2:09:09), Henry Chirchir (KEN/2:09:24), Dimitry Safronov (RUS/2:09:35), Jacob Cheshari (KEN/2:09:43), Tobias Sauter (GER/2:17:27), Eliud Kipchoge (KEN/Debut).
Women: Kateryna Stetsenko (UKR/2:27:51), Diana Lobacevske (LIT/2:28:03), Malika Asahssak (MOR/2:30:23), Caroline Chepkwony (KEN/2:30:34), Magdaline Mukunzi (KEN/2:30:46), Iuliia Arkhipova (KGZ/2:30:57), Almaz Alemu (ETH/2:31:27), Lisa Hahner (Run2Sky.com/2:31:28), Mona Stockhecke (GER/2:38:21), Katharina Heinig (GER/2:39:03).

Düsseldorf (April 28)

IAAF Bronze Label Race
Entries: appr. 4,500
Entries still possible: Yes
Website: www.Metrogroup-Marathon.de

Prize Money: 5,000 or 4,000 Euros (depending on times)
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): maximum 24,200 (depending on times)

Course Records:
2:08:27 Seboka Diriba Tola (ETH/2012)
2:25:49 Agnes Jeruto (KEN/2012)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Duncan Kibet (KEN/2:04:27), Duncan Koech (KEN/2:07:53), Pius Ondoro (KEN/2:08:00), Cosmas Kigen (KEN/2:09:43), Raymond Bett (KEN/2:11:32), Luis Feiteira (POR/2:11:57), André Pollmächer GER/2:13:09), Marian Blazinski (GER/2:15:34), Milton Rotich (KEN/Debut).
Women: Melkam Gizaw (ETH/2:26:52), Nastassia Dashkevich (BLR/2:34:08), Agnieszka Ciolek-Mierzejewska (POL/2:34:15), Remalda Kergyte (LTU/2:35:20), Veronica Pohl (GER/2:34:59), Rebecca Chesire (KEN/Debut).

Hannover (May 5)

IAAF Bronze Label Race
Entries: appr. 2,200
Entries still possible: Yes
Website: www.Marathon-Hannover.de
TV: Live on NDR

Prize Money: 4,000 Euros
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): 20,600 Euros

Course Records:
2:08:52 Yussuf Songoka (KEN/2010)
2:30:17 Natalya Puchkova (RUS/2012)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Wilfred Kigen (KEN/2:07:33), David Kisang (KEN/2:08:54), Lusapho April (RSA/2:09:25), Joseph Kiptum (KEN/2:09:56), Wesley Langat (KEN/2:10:40).
Women: Olena Bukovska (UKR/2:28:31), Natalya Sokolova (RUS/2:30:10), Marta Lema Megra (ETH/2:31:01), Mercy Kibarus (KEN/2:44:56), Edinah Kwambai (KEN/Debut).

The Ten Fastest Marathons in History*

Men:

 2:03:02* Hours   Geoffrey Mutai   KEN   Boston (USA)  04.18.2011 
 2:03:06*  Moses Mosop  ETH  Boston (USA)  04.18.2011
 2:03:38  Patrick Makau  KEN  Berlin (GER)  09.15.2011
 2:04:53  Wilson Kipsang  KEN  Frankfurt (GER)  10.30.2011
 2:03:59  Haile Gebrselassie   ETH  Berlin (GER)  09.28.2008
 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
 2:04:26  Haile Gebrselassie  ETH  Berlin (GER)  09.30.2007
 2:04:27  Duncan Kibet  KEN  Rotterdam (NED)   04.05.2009
 2:04:27  James Kwambai  KEN  Rotterdam (NED)  04.05.2009

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
 2:19:12  Mizuki Noguchi  JPN  Berlin (GER)  09.25.2005
 2:19:19  Tiki Gelana  ETH  Rotterdam (NED)   04.15.2012
 2:19:19  Irina Mikitenko  GER  Berlin (GER)  09.28.2008
 2:19:19  Mary Keitany  KEN  London (GBR)  04.17.2011

* The course of the Boston Marathon does not meet the conditions required to be granted world-record status.

World Marathon Majors (WMM)
Rankings for the Season 2012-2013*

Men:

 1.   Tsegaye Kebede  ETH   35 Points   1. Chicago 2012, 3. London 2012
 2.  Wilson Kipsang  KEN  35  1. London 2012, 3. Olympic Games 2012 
 3.  Wesley Korir  KEN  26  1. Boston 2012, 5. Chicago 2012
 4.  Stephen Kiprotich   UGA  25  1. Olympic Games 2012
 4.  Geoffrey Mutai  KEN  25  1. Berlin 2012
 6.  Dennis Kimetto  KEN  15  2. Berlin 2012
 Abel Kirui  KEN  15  2. Olympic Games 2012
 Martin Lel  KEN  15  2. London 2012
 Feyisa Lilesa  ETH  15  2. Chicago 2012
 Levy Matebo  KEN  15  2. Boston 2012

Women:

 1.   Mary Keitany  KEN   30 Points   1. London 2012, 4. Olympic Games 2012 
 2.  Atsede Baysa  ETH  25  1. Chicago 2012
 Sharon Cherop  KEN  25  1. Boston 2012
 Tiki Gelana  ETH  25  1. Olympic Games 2012
 Priscah Jeptoo  KEN  25  2. Olympia 2012, 3. London 2012 
 Abery Kebede  ETH  25  1. Berlin 2012
 7.  Jemima Jelagat Sumgong   KEN  15  2. Boston 2012
 Rita Jeptoo  KEN  15  2. Chicago 2012
 Edna Kiplagat  KEN  15  2. London 2012
 Tirfi Tsegaye  ETH  15  2. Berlin 2012

* Each WMM Series takes place over a two-year cycle. The men’s and women’s champions
share equally prize money of one million US-dollars.