Our Preview of the Upcoming Spring Marathon Races

By Jörg Wenig

Geoffrey Mutai Returns to Boston
Patrick Makau and William Kipsang in London
Moses Mosop Runs in Rotterdam
Selected Spring Races

The start of the 2011 women’s race in Boston. © www.photorun.net
The start of the 2011 women’s race in Boston. © www.photorun.net

After an exciting year of marathon events in 2011, the 2012 spring season is about to get under way. Last year, the four fastest times in history were achieved in the men’s 26.2-mile competitions while new course records were set at all five World Marathon Majors—Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York—as well as in the Frankfurt Marathon. In addition, three women went under the 2:20 barrier, a feat which had not been matched for almost three years. Will the spring season continue this remarkable trend?

It will certainly be a factor that this is an Olympic year. Some athletes, like the British women’s world-record holder, Paula Radcliffe or Russia’s World Marathon Majors champion, Liliya Shobukhova, decided against running a spring marathon in order to concentrate fully on competing in London in August. Kenya’s leading marathon runners, who dominated the events like never before in 2011, are being sent by their federation to the big city races in April and their Olympic squad will not be selected until after the marathons in Rotterdam, Boston, and London. With an overwhelming pool of talent available, these athletes face a tough challenge: not only do they have to defeat their compatriots, especially in London, but also run a fast time to secure one of the three places on the team.

Millions of spectators will line the courses to cheer on their favorites or follow the races in the media. Perhaps this year you, too, will be captured by the marathon fever and can experience one of the big events as spectator or runner.

Geoffrey Mutai Will Defend His Title in Boston

Will Geoffrey Mutai repeat his outstanding victory in “Bean Town?” © www.photorun.net
Will Geoffrey Mutai repeat his outstanding victory in “Bean Town?” © www.photorun.net

A special East African runner will be taking center stage in Boston on April 16, its traditional Monday race day: Kenya’s defending champion, Geoffrey Mutai. Last year on Patriots’ Day he made headlines worldwide with the fastest marathon ever run. However, his time of two hours, three minutes, and two seconds cannot be recognized as a world record, because of the point-to-point, downhill nature of the Boston course. Geoffrey followed his triumph with a 2:05:06 victory at the ING New York City Marathon in early November—making him the first runner to hold the course record for both events. If the long-distance ace repeats his win in Boston, his chances of a nomination for the Olympics will undoubtedly be stronger.

Yet Geoffrey is only one of eight runners who will be on the starting line in Hopkinton with a personal best of under 2:06:30. With the likes of Gebre Gebremariam (Ethiopia), who was third last year in Boston in 2:04:53, and Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (Kenya), who ran a course record of 2:05:52 in 2010, there are competitors in the race who are familiar with the hilly and far-from-easy course.

As in 2011, thousands of runners will take part in the Boston Marathon events. © www.photorun.net
As in 2011, thousands of runners will take part in the Boston Marathon events. © www.photorun.net

Boston, the first World Marathon Majors (WMM) event of the year, has also attracted a first-class women’s field. Last year’s champion, Caroline Kilel (Kenya) was crowned in laurels with a personal best of 2:22:36—and is only the fourth-fastest woman in the race. Aselefech Mergia (Ethiopia/2:19:31), Galina Bogomolova (Russia/2:20:47), and Mamitu Daska (Ethiopia/2:21:59) are also strong contenders for the win. A total of nine women will be running with personal bests under 2:23:30.

This year Boston celebrates the 150th anniversary of the founding of John Hancock, the sponsor that has been partnering with the oldest annual marathon in the world for the past 27 years. John Hancock also supports the Hoyt Foundation, which was founded by the inspirational father-and-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt, who will be running their 30th Boston. Amazing! As in previous years, Uta has been coaching the athletes from this charity for the past few months as they prepare to run the Boston Marathon.

World-Record Holder Patrick Makau Faces Frankfurt Winner Wilson Kipsang, Course-Record Holder Emmanuel Mutai, and World Champion Abel Kirui in London

A strong field will be on the starting line in London. Shown here is the leading group at Tower Bridge in the 2011 race. © www.photorun.net
A strong field will be on the starting line in London. Shown here is the leading group at Tower Bridge in the 2011 race. © www.photorun.net

Once again, the scene is set in London for some fascinating duels. A total of ten athletes with personal bests under 2:05:30 will line up at the start in Greenwich. Three of these marathoners have achieved sub-2:05 times, all of them are from Kenya. The trio includes world-record holder, Patrick Makau, who triumphed with a time of 2:03:38 in Berlin last September; the Frankfurt winner, Wilson Kipsang, who ran to within four seconds of the world record in the city on the river Main in October; and the defending champion and course-record holder in London, Emmanuel Mutai (2:04:40). Another seven athletes have personal bests under 2:06, including the reigning world champion, Abel Kirui (Kenya/2:05:04). For all of them, London is a key selection race for the Olympic games. Whoever emerges as the top runner on April 22 will significantly increase his chances of making the Olympic team.

The women’s race features three runners who have already clocked under 2:20, last year’s winner, Mary Keitany (Kenya), takes on Irina Mikitenko of Germany—both with personal bests of 2:19:19—and her fellow Kenyan, Florence Kiplagat, who won Berlin with 2:19:44 in 2011. However, this trio will have to battle other fast rivals, ten of whom—including Olympic champion Constantina Dita of Romania (2:21:30)—have personal bests under 2:23.

Moses Mosop Hopes for a Fast Time in Rotterdam

Can Moses Mosop triumph again in the Netherlands? © www.photorun.net
Can Moses Mosop triumph again in the Netherlands? © www.photorun.net

Kenya’s Moses Mosop has set his sights on the world record of 2:03:38, achieved by his compatriot Kenyan Patrick Makau in Berlin last September, and on April 15, he will make his bid on the flat course in Rotterdam. The long-distance star visited the Netherlands in March after he had placed sixth in 62:00 minutes at the Paris Half Marathon and was impressed by the course. “That’s the fastest course I’ve ever seen,” said Moses, who last year in Boston finished second in 2:03:06, the fastest debut marathon ever and then won Chicago in October in a course record of 2:05:37.

Two other strong contenders will also be running Rotterdam: Ethiopians Getu Feleke, who has a best of 2:05:16, and Yemane Adhane, who has run 2:06:29. But it could be a Kenyan rival who will end up as the toughest competitor for Mosop: Peter Kirui played a part in Patrick Makau’s record run in Berlin last September and approximately a month later performed well as pacemaker when Wilson Kipsang pursued the world record in Frankfurt. Peter ultimately decided not to drop out in Frankfurt and finished in 2:06:31 on his debut over the classic distance. He could improve this time by a considerable margin in Rotterdam. Kenya’s Sammy Kitwara will also be a factor in the Netherlands, his half-marathon time of 58:48 makes him the fourth-fastest ever.

Paris and Vienna Promise further Highlights this Spring

The start of the Vienna City Marathon. © www.photorun.net
The start of the Vienna City Marathon. © www.photorun.net

Paris and Vienna will be hosting top-class races on the same day as the ABN AMRO Rotterdam Marathon. Both events have been classified by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) in the highest category of road races and were awarded the “IAAF Gold Label.” Kenya’s Albert Matebor will be the fastest man in the field in Paris. He finished third in Frankfurt last year in 2:05:26. Along with his compatriot, Benjamin Kiptoo (2:06:29), he could break the course record held by Vincent Kipruto (2:05:47), which has stood for three years. Among the women, Tirfi Beyene (Ethiopia/personal best: 2:22:44) and Kenya’s Salina Kosgei (2:23:22), who won the race back in 2004 in 2:24:32, are the pre-race favorites.

Six former champions return to the Vienna City Marathon. The fastest man in the field is Gilbert Kirwa (Kenya), who took Vienna in 2009 with his personal best 2:06:14. Both defending men’s and women’s champions will return to the race: John Kiprotich (Kenya), who won last year in 2:08:29 and has since improved his best to 2:07:08, and Fate Tola (Ethiopia), who ran a personal best of 2:26:21 to take the women’s title. The Kenyans Henry Sugut (the 2010 champion) and Luke Kibet (2007), complete the list of former winners who will be starting on April 15. Abel Kirui (Kenya), who was victorious with 2:07:38 in 2008, is the current course-record holder—and this year’s field stands a good chance of improving on his time.

Round-Up of Spring Marathon Dates

April 15   Rotterdam
  Paris
  Vienna
  Milan
April 16 Boston
April 22 London
  Zürich
  Madrid
  Enschede
April 29 Düsseldorf
  Hamburg
May 6 Hanover
  Toronto
May 13 Prague

Dates and Leading Runners of Selected Spring Races

Rotterdam (April 15)

IAAF Silver Label Race
Entries: appr. 12,000
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.ABNAMROMarathonRotterdam.com
TV: Live on RTV Rijnmond and also live-stream on internet (UniversalSports.com and nos.nl)

Prize Money: depends on winner’s time
Total Prize Money: 1 Million Dollars US

Course Records:
2:04:27 Duncan Kibet (KEN/2009), James Kwambai (KEN/2009)
2:21:47 Tegla Loroupe (KEN/1998)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Moses Mosop (KEN/2:03:06), Getu Feleke (ETH/2:05:16), Yemane Adhane (ETH/2:06:29), Peter Kirui (KEN/2:06:31), Rashid Kisri (MAR/2:06:48), Stephen Kibet (KEN/2:09:27), Sammy Kitwara (KEN/Debut), Koen Raymaekers (NETH/2:11:09).
Women: Miranda Boonstra (NETH/2:29:23)—others still be announced.

Paris (April 15)

IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 40,000
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.ParisMarathon.com
TV: Live on Eurosport and on France3

Prize Money: 25,000 or 50,000 Euro (depending on time)
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): between 136,500 und 268,500 Euro (depending on time)

Course Records:
2:05:47 Vincent Kipruto (KEN/2009)
2:22:04 Atsede Bayisa (ETH/2010)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Albert Matebor (KEN/2:05:26), Benjamin Kiptoo (KEN/2:06:29), Eshetu Wendemu (ETH/2:06:46), Hendrick Ramaala (RSA/2:06:55), Stanley Biwott (KEN/2:07:03), Abdellatif Meftah (FRA/2:09:46), Eric Ndieman (TAN/2:13:14).
Women: Tirfi Beyene (ETH/2:22:44), Salina Kosgei (KEN/2:23:22), Teyba Erkesso (ETH/2:23:53), Shitaye Bedaso (ETH/2:25:09), Misikir Mekonin (ETH/2:25:21), Julia Mumbi (KEN/2:26:00)—others still to be announced.

Vienna (April 15)

IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: appr. 8,500
Entries still possible: Yes
Website: www.Vienna-Marathon.com
TV: Live on ORF and live-stream on internet (www.Vienna-Marathon.com)

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

Course Records:
2:07:38 Abel Kirui (KEN/2008)
2:23:47 Maura Viceconte (ITA/2000)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Gilbert Kirwa (KEN/2:06:14), Gilbert Yegon (KEN/2:06:18), John Kiprotich (KEN/2:07:08), John Komen (KEN/2:07:13), Patrick Ivuti (KEN/2:07:46), Wilson Kigen (KEN/2:08:16), Henry Sugut (KEN/2:08:22), Iaroslav Musinschi (MDA), Geoffrey Ndungu (KEN/2:08:35), Luke Kibet (KEN/2:08:52), Lusapho April (KEN/2:09:25), Dmitriy Safronov (RUS/2:09:35).
Women: Fate Tola (ETH/2:26:21), Luminita Talpos (ROM/2:26:43), Olga Glok (RUS/2:28:27), Aberesh Bedasa (ETH/2:29:47), Helaria Johannes (NAM/2:30:37), Pauline Njeri (KEN/Debut), Emebet Bedada (ETH/Debut)—others still to be announced.

Boston (April 16)

World Marathon Majors (WMM) Race
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 26,800
Entries still possible: No
Website: www.BAA.org
TV: Live on WBZ-TV and live-stream on internet (www.Boston.CBSLocal.com and www.UniversalSports.com) and live reports on internet (www.BAA.org)

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

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

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Geoffrey Mutai (KEN/2:03:02), Gebre Gebremariam (ETH/2:04:53), Levy Matebo (KEN/2:05:16), Wilson Chebet (KEN/2:05:27), Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (KEN/2:05:52), Laban Korir (KEN/2:06:05), Wesley Korir (KEN/2:06:15), Bernard Kipyego (KEN/2:06:29), David Barmasai (KEN/2:07:18), Dickson Chumba (KEN/2:07:23), Josphat Ndambiri (KEN/2:07:36), Peter Kamais (KEN/2:07:37).
Women: Aselefech Mergia (ETH/2:19:31), Galina Bogomolova (RUS/2:20:47), Mamitu Daska (ETH/2:21:59), Caroline Kilel (KEN/2:22:36), Sharon Cherop (KEN/2:22:42), Ashu Kasim (ETH/2:23:09), Firehiwot Dado (ETH/2:23:15), Bizunesh Deba (ETH/2:23:19), Rita Jeptoo (KEN/2:23:38), Agnes Kiprop (KEN/2:23:54), Caroline Rotich (KEN/2:24:26), Georgina Rono (KEN/2:24:33), Alevtina Biktimirova (RUS/2:25:12), Genet Getaneh (ETH/2:25:57), Tatyana Pushkareva (RUS/2:26:14), Diana Sigei (KEN/2:26:53).

London (April 22)

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.VirginLondonMarathon.com [only available for the USA])

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

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

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Patrick Makau (KEN/2:03:38), Wilson Kipsang (KEN/2:03:42), Emmanuel Mutai (KEN/2:04:40), Abel Kirui (KEN/2:05:04), Vincent Kipruto (KEN/2:05:13), Martin Lel (KEN/2:05:15), Tsegaye Kebede (ETH/2:05:18), Feyisa Lilesa (ETH/2:05:23), Bazu Worku (ETH/2:05:25), Jaouad Gharib (MAR/2:05:27), Marilson Gomes dos Santos (BRA/2:06:34), Markos Geneti (ETH/2:06:35), Yared Asmerson (ERI/2:07:27), Samuel Tsegay (ERI/2:07:28), Abreham Cherkos (ETH/2:07:29), Abderrahim Bouramdane (MAR/2:07:33), Adil Annani (MAR/2:10:15), Scott Westcott (AUS/2:11:36), Zersenay Tadese (ERI/2:12:03).
Women: Mary Keitany (KEN/2:19:19), Irina Mikitenko (Germany/2:19:19), Florence Kiplagat (KEN/2:19:44), Edna Kiplagat (KEN/2:20:46), Constantina Dita (ROM/2:21:30), Atsede Baysa (ETH/2:22:04), Ejegayehu Dibaba (ETH/2:22:09), Inga Abitova (RUS/2:22:19), Korene Jelila (ETH/2:22:43), Priscah Jeptoo (KEN/2:22:51), Bezunesh Bekele (ETH/2:23:09), Isabellah Andersson (SWE/2:23:41), Mariya Konovalova (RUS/2:23:50), Aberu Kebede (ETH/2:23:58), Jessica Augusto (POR/2:24:33), Nadia Ejjafini (ITA/2:26:15), Yuliya Ruban (UKR/2:27:00), Liz Yelling (GBR/2:28:33), Claire Hallissey (GBR/2:29:27), Louise Damen (GBR/2:30:00).

Düsseldorf (April 29)

IAAF Bronze Label Race
Entries: appr. 4,000
Entries still possible: Yes
Website: www.Metrogroup-Marathon.de

Prize Money: 5,000 or 7,000 Euro (depending on time)
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): 25,400 to 35,850 Euro (depending on time)

Course Records:
2:08:32 Iaroslav Musinschi (MDA/2010)
2:26:44 Luminita Zaituc (GER/2004)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Seboka Diriba Tola (ETH/2:06:17), Joseph Ngeny (KEN/2:08:10), Evans Ruto (KEN/2:08:36), Yuki Kawauchi (JPN/2:08:37), Abraham Chelanga (KEN/2:08:43), Nahashon Kimaiyo (KEN/2:10:36), André Pollmächer (Germany/2:13:09), Jan Fitschen (Germany/2:15:40).
Women: Kebebush Haile (ETH/2:24:09), Melanie Kraus (Germany/2:27:58), Fantu Eticha Jimma (ETH/2:30:25), Tanith Maxwell (RSA/2:32:33), Jane Rotich (KEN/2:33:42), Nastassia Staravoitava (RUS/2:34:08), Anna Hahner (Germany/Debut)—others still to be announced.

Hamburg (April 29)

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

Prize Money: 12,000 Euro
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): 68,500 Euro

Course Records:
2:06:52 Julio Rey (ESP/2006)
2:24:14 Irina Timofeyeva (RUS/2008)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Dadi Yami (ETH/2:05:41), Shami Dawit (ETH/2:05:42), Evans Cheruiyot (KEN/2:06:25), Chele Dechase (ETH/2:06:33), Paul Biwott (KEN/2:06:54), Charles Kamathi (KEN/2:07:33), Augustine Ronoh (KEN/2:08:05), Robert Kipchumba (KEN/2:08:07), Deribe Robi (ETH/2:08:40), Alberto Chaica (POR/2:09:25), Joseph Biwott (KEN/2:09:40), Joel Kipsang (KEN/2:09:50), Norman Dlomo (RSA/2:10:39), Falk Cierpinksi (Germany/2:13:30), Martin Beckmann (Germany/2:13:42), Tujuba Megersa (ETH/Debut).
Women: Robe Guta (ETH/2:24:35), Rael Kiyara (KEN /2:25:23), Netsanet Abeyo (ETH/2:26:12), Etalemahu Kidane (ETH/2:31:11), Natalia Sokolova (RUS /2:31:52), Beatrice Toroitich (KEN/2:32:58), Valentine Kipketer (KEN/Debut), Malika Asahssah (ESP/69:54).

Hanover (May 8th)

IAAF Bronze Label Race
Entries: appr. 2,000
Entries still possible: Yes
Website: www.Marathon-Hannover.de
TV: Live on NDR

Prize Money: 4,000 Euro
Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): 20,400 Euro

Course Records:
2:08:52 Yussuf Songoka (KEN/2010)
2:31:19 Georgina Rona (KEN/2011)

Elite athletes and their personal bests:
Men: Nixon Machichim (KEN/2:08:22), Edwin Kutto (KEN/2:08:57), Amos Matui (KEN/2:09:35), Botoru Tsegaye (ETH/2:09:57), Joseph Kiptum (KEN/2:10:07), Reuben Kosgei (KEN/2:11:22), Johnstone Chepkwony (KEN/2:11:33).
Women: Fatuma Sado (ETH/2:28:01), Leah Malot (KEN/2:29:17), Halima Hassen Beriso (ETH/2:32:42), Natalya Puchkova (RUS/2:33:02), Bernadette Pichlmaier (Germany), Remalda Kergyte (LTU/2:38:48), Katharina Heinig (Germany/2:42:10).

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)  28.09.2008
 2:04:23  Ayele Abshero  ETH  Dubai (UAE)  27.01.2012
 2:04:26  Haile Gebrselassie  ETH   Berlin (GER)  30.09.2007
 2:04:27  Duncan Kibet  KEN  Rotterdam (NED)   05.04.2009
 2:04:27  James Kwambai  KEN  Rotterdam (NED)  05.04.2009
 2:04:40  Emmanuel Mutai  KEN  London (GBR)  04.17.2011

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
 2:18:47  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  Irina Mikitenko  GER  Berlin (GER)  09.28.2008
 2:19:19  Mary Keitany  KEN  London (GBR)      04.17.2011
 2:19:26  Catherine Ndereba  KEN  Chicago (USA)  10.13.2002

*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 2011-2012*

Men:

  1.   Geoffrey Mutai  KEN   50 Points   1. Boston 2011 and 1. New York 2011 
  2.   Moses Mosop  KEN  40  2. Boston 2011 and 1. Chicago 2011
  3.   Emmanuel Mutai  KEN  40  1. London 2011 and 2. New York 2011 
  4.   Patrick Makau  KEN  35  3. London 2011 and 1. Berlin 2011
  5.   Abel Kirui  KEN  35  1. WCh in Daegu 2011
  6.    Stephen Chemlany  KEN  15  2. Berlin 2011
    Gebre Gebremariam      ETH  15  3. Boston 2011 and 4. New York 2011  
    Viencent Kipruto  KEN  15  2. WCh in Daegu 2011
    Wesley Korir  KEN  15  2. Chicago 2011
    Martin Lel  KEN  15  2. London 2011

Women:

 1.   Liliya Shobukhova   RUS   40 Points   2. London 2011 and 1. Chicago 2011
 2.  Mary Keitany  KEN  35  1. London 2011 and 3. New York 2011
 3.  Edna Kiplagat  KEN  35  3. London 2011 and 1. WCh in Daegu 2011 
 4.  Firehiwot Dado  ETH  25  1. New York 2011
   Caroline Kilel  ETH  25  1. Boston 2011
   Florence Kiplagat  ETH  25  1. Berlin 2011
 7.  Sharon Cherop  KEN  20  3. Boston 2011 and 3. WCh in Daegu 2011 
 8.  Desiree Davila  USA  15  2. Boston 2011
   Buzunesh Deba  ETH  15  2. New York 2011
   Ejegayehu Dibaba  ETH  15  2. Chicago 2011

*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.