Spring Marathon Season to Kick Off in Rotterdam, Boston and London

By Jörg Wenig
Irina Mikitenko dominated the 2009 London Marathon. © www.photorun.net
Irina Mikitenko dominated the 2009 London Marathon. © www.photorun.net

The spring marathon season is here. The Rotterdam Marathon this Sunday starts three of the most exciting weeks in the international marathoning calendar. Two races, Boston and London, count towards the World Marathon Majors Series scoring. In London, 120,000 runners sought an entry, while in Boston 16 men with personal bests under 2:10 are expected to start.

And besides record turnout and deep elite fields, the spring marathon season offers a number of significant marathon anniversaries. Rotterdam and London are both 30 years old. Hamburg turns 25 while Hanover celebrates its twentieth race.

Last year these races produced seriously fast times: Four of the fastest marathons ever run by men were achieved last April.

Defending Champions Deriba Merga and Salina Kosgei Return to Boston

The first WMM race of the spring season takes place six days before London in Boston. The 114th edition of this historic race contains its strongest men’s field in recent years. Sixteen runners have been entered with personal records under 2:10 hours—a fact that gives Boston top billing this April. Deriba Merga (Ethiopia/2:06:38) returns as the defending champion to the point-to-point course from Hopkinton to Boston. The fastest man among the elite field comes from Morocco: Abderrahim Goumri, who has a best of 2:05:30.

Salina Kosgei won last year’s Boston Marathon by just one second from Dire Tune. Both return for this year’s race. © www.photorun.net
Salina Kosgei won last year’s Boston Marathon by just one second from Dire Tune. Both return for this year’s race. © www.photorun.net

In the women’s race, four-time champion and double world champion Catherine Ndereba (Kenya/2:18:47) returns to the starting line. She won the race in 2000, 2001, 2004, and 2005. Among her rivals will be last year’s winner, Salina Kosgei (Kenya/2:23:22), and Dire Tune (Ethiopia/2:24:40), who finished runner-up last year by a mere second.

Elite runners aside, hundreds of people will also be tackling the course this year for charity. Each of these unique runners has been raising funds to support one of the race’s 24 official charities.

This year’s Boston Marathon is also the 25th anniversary of the race with John Hancock Financial as its primary sponsor. This successful partnership enables organizers to create an exciting race with world-class talent and offer all participants and spectators an incomparable experience. In addition to its support of the race itself, John Hancock Financial has been sponsoring community initiatives in the city of Boston and its outlying areas in coordination with the Boston Athletic Association for many years.

A Fast Field is Set for London

The Virgin London Marathon has once again attracted a strong field. German marathoning superstar Irina Mikitenko affirmed this fact, indicating it is “as strong as that for a world championship.” Before she traveled to Kyrgyzstan for several weeks of altitude training, Irina Mikitenko also indicated her passion for the race. “I love running in London and am ready to take on the challenge. I hope my preparation goes well,” she said. Last year, the German runner triumphed for the second successive occasion in London, winning decisive points for her victory in the WMM Series. “My aim is to win London for the third time but I know, of course, that it will be very tough because of the strong competition,” said the 37 year old.

Among the rivals facing Irina Mikitenko, whose German record of 2:19:19 hours makes her the fastest woman in the field, are the Olympic champion Constantina Dita (Romania) and China’s strongly favored World champion, Xue Bai. Alongside Irina Mikitenko will be a further nine women with best times under 2:23:30. Perhaps the German’s strongest rival could prove to be Liliya Shobukhova (Russia/2:24:240) who has a strong turn of speed and put that to good use in winning the Chicago Marathon last October, beating Irina Mikitenko in the process. The 32 year old is also currently Mikitenko’s strongest challenger in the race for the WMM Series 2009-2010.

Sammy Wanjiru on his way to victory in London 2009. © www.photorun.net
Sammy Wanjiru on his way to victory in London 2009. © www.photorun.net

The men’s race is just as strong. Six athletes have a best time of under 2:05:30—unprecendented in marathoning history. Among them is the 2009 Rotterdam champion, Duncan Kibet (Kenya), the second-fastest runner of all time (2:04:27), the World champion, Abel Kirui (Kenya/2:05:04), and the defending champion, Sammy Wanjiru (Kenya/2:05:10), who is also the Olympic champion. The London organizers have also brought in Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea). At the end of March, Tadese made headlines by breaking the world record in the half marathon (58:23) in Lisbon.

The lottery to decide who would receive places in London achieved an unprecedented landmark a year ago when 120,000 registered within the first 64 hours to run in the British capital.

You can read more about the courses in the Boston and London Marathons in our article
The World Marathon Majors—From the Ground Up.”

Europe to Host Six Additional Exciting Spring Marathons

The Fortis Rotterdam and Paris Marathons kick off the spring marathon races next Sunday. In Rotterdam, the Kenyan James Kwambai will return to the course where he set a personal best of 2:04:27 last year. After a dramatic duel with his compatriot Duncan Kibet, who will be racing in London, Kwambai finished just a stride behind in second place to also become the second-fastest runner of all time. His strongest rival this year should be Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) who set a course record in Paris last year by improving his personal best to 2:05:47. Two additional Kenyans may surprise the field: Patrick Makau Musyoki, who ran 2:06:14 in Rotterdam last year on his marathon debut, and Bernard Kipyego, who will be running his first marathon.

The scenic Vienna Marathon takes runners past historic sites such as the Opera House. © www.photorun.net
The scenic Vienna Marathon takes runners past historic sites such as the Opera House. © www.photorun.net

One man who might well play a significant role at the European championships in Barcelona will be running the Vienna Marathon on April 18: the former steeplechaser Günther Weidlinger (Austria). He improved his best to an impressive 2:10:47 in Frankfurt last autumn. Also on the start list will be Luke Kibet, a runner who first won in Vienna in 2007 and eventually took the world title that year. Austria’s marathon fans will also be turning their attention to the women’s race where Andrea Mayr will be out to break the national record and go under 2:30. She hopes to be able to stay close to Hellen Kimutai (Kenya/2:25:53) and Luminita Talpos (Romania/2:26:43) during the race. Luminuta Talpos has won the women’s title twice in Vienna.
Taking all forms of competition into account, Vienna will have a field of more than 30,000 runners, making it the biggest spring race in the German-speaking region.

Up to 20,000 marathon runners could be on the start line for the Möbel Kraft Hamburg Marathon. The organizers have been able to recruit Wilfred Kigen (Kenya/best time 2:07:33) again for the 25th edition of the race, which winds along Lake Alster

As for German hopes, while Martin Beckmann is planning to run the Hamburg Marathon, Falk Cierpinski will be running in Dusseldorf. Among the women, Melanie Kraus plans to run her first marathon by the Rhein River a year after injury forced her to drop out after only a few kilometers of the same race in Dusseldorf.

The TUIfly Hanover Marathon could attract attention in terms of fast times among the elite in its 20th edition. Samson Bungei (Kenya) finished runner-up in the 2009 Cologne Marathon with 2:08:36. He is the brother of the Olympic 800-meter champion, Wilfred Bungei. Another runner on the start list who has a well-known brother is Edwin Kutto (Kenya). He ran Cologne as a pacemaker in 2009 but stayed in the race to finish in 2:11:55. His brother, Abel Kirui, is a world marathon champion. The former 3,000m steeplechase world record holder Wilson Boit Kipketer (Kenya/2:11:07) will run in Hanover where around 2,000 participants are expected in the marathon (which is a 40% increase in turnout compared to last year). Among the women’s field are the winner of the 2009 Dublin Marathon, Kateryna Stetsenko (Russia/2:32:45) and Georgina Rono (Kenya/2:31:49).

Round-up of Spring Marathon Dates

11 April    Rotterdam
18 April    Vienna
19 April    Boston
25 April    London
2 May        Dusseldorf
9 May        Prague

Dates and Favorites of Spring Races

1. ROTTERDAM (11 April)

Entries: 12,456
Entries still possible: No
Web site: www.fortismarathonrotterdam.co.uk

Winner’s prize money: dependent on winning time
Total prize money: 1 Million US-Dollars

Course records:
2:04:27 Duncan Kibet (KEN/2009), James Kwambai (KEN/2009)
2:20:47 Tegla Loroupe (KEN/1998)

Leading athletes and their best times:
Men: James Kwambai (KEN/2:04:27), Vincent Kipruto (KEN/2:05:47), Patrick Makau (KEN/2:06:14), Daniel Rono (KEN/2:06:58), Geoffrey Mutai (KEN/2:07:01), Francis Kiprop (KEN/2:07:04), Isaac Macharia (KEN/2:07:16), Elias Kemboi (KEN/2:08:15), Yirdaw Dejene (ETH/2:08:30), Dereje Tesfaye (ETH/2:08:36), Feyisa Lelisa (ETH/2:08:47), Robert Kipchumba (KEN/2:09:56), Bernard Kipyego (KEN/Debut), Koen Raymaekers (NED/2:12:59).
Women: Zhu Xiaolin (CHN/2:23:57), Anne Kosgei (KEN/2:27:46), Olga Glok (RUS/2:28:27), Irene Jerotich (KEN/2:28:57).

2. PARIS (11 April)

IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 40,000
Entries still possible: No
Web site: www.parismarathon.com

Winner’s prize money: not yet known (50,000 Euro in 2009)
Total prize money (without time bonuses): not yet known (268,500 Euro in 2009/depending upon times)

Course records:
2:05:47 Vincent Kipruto (KEN/2009)
2:23:05 Marleen Renders (BEL/2002)

Leading athletes and their best times: Not yet known

3. VIENNA (18 April)

Entries: 7,500
Entries still possible: Yes
Web site: www.vienna-marathon.com

Winner’s 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)

Leading athletes and their best times:
Men: Luke Kibet (KEN/2:08:52), Günther Weidlinger (AUT/2:10:47).
Women: Hellen Kimutai (KEN/2:25:53), Luminita Talpos (ROM/2:26:43), Andrea Mayr (AUT/2:30:43), Derebe Godana (ETH/2:31:31).

4. BOSTON (19. April)

World Marathon Majors (WMM)-Race
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 25,000
Entries still possible: No
Web site: www.baa.org

Winner’s prize money: 150,000 US-Dollars
Total prize money (without time bonuses): 746,000 US-Dollars

Course records:
2:07:14 Robert K. Cheruiyot (KEN/2006)
2:20:43 Margaret Okayo (KEN/2002)

Leading athletes and their best times:
Men: Abderrahim Goumri (MAR/2:05:30), Ryan Hall (USA/2:06:17), Gilbert Yegon (KEN/2:06:18), Evans Cheruiyot (KEN/2:06:25), Chala Dechase (ETH/2:06:33), Deriba Merga (ETH/2:06:38), Elijah Keitany (KEN/2.06:41), David Mandago (KEN/2:06:53), Benjamin Maiyo (KEN/2:07:09), Tekeste Kebede (ETH/2:07:52), Gashaw Asfaw (ETH/2:08:03), John Komen (KEN/2:08:06), Samuel Mugo (KEN/2:08:20), Stephen Kiogora (KEN/2:08:24), Meb Keflezighi (USA/2:09:15).
Women: Catherine Ndereba (KEN/2:18:47), Madai Perez (MEX/2:22:59), Salina Kosgei (KEN/2:23:22), Teyba Erkesso (ETH/2:23:53), Dire Tune (ETH/2:24:40), Lidiya Grigoryeva (RUS/2:25:10), Weiwei Sun (CHN/2:25:15), Bruna Genovese (ITA/2:25:28), Albina Ivanova (RUS/2:25:35), Yurika Nakamura (JPN/2:25:51), Agnes Kiprop (KEN/2:26:22), Nailya Yulamanova (RUS/2:26:30).

5. LONDON (25 April)

World Marathon Majors (WMM)-Race
IAAF Gold Label Race
Entries: 51,266
Entries still possible: No
Web site: www.london-marathon.co.uk

Winner’s prize money: 55,000 US-Dollars
Total prize money (without time bonuses): 295,000 US-Dollars

Course records:
2:05:10 Samuel Wanjiru (KEN/2009)
2:15:25 Paula Radcliffe (GRB/2003/WR)

Leading athletes and their best times:
Men: Duncan Kibet (KEN/2:04:27), Abel Kirui (KEN/2:05:04), Samuel Wanjiru (KEN/2:05:10), Martin Lel (KEN/2:05:15), Tsegaye Kebede (ETH/2:05:18), Jaouad Gharib (MAR/2:05:27), Emmanuel Mutai (KEN/2:06:15), Yonas Kifle (ERI/2:07:34), Marilson dos Santos (BRA/2:08:37), Abdi Abdirahman (USA/2:08:37), Yuko Matsumiya (JPN/2:09:18), Zersenay Tadese (ERI/Debut).
Women: Irina Mikitenko (TV Wattenscheid/2:19:19), Deena Kastor (USA/2:19:36), Lyudmila Petrova (RUS/2:21:29), Constantina Dita (ROM/2:21:30), Svetlana Zakharova (RUS/ 2:21:31), Askale Tafa Magarsa (ETH/2:21:31), Bezunesh Bekele (ETH/2:23:09), Mara Yamauchi (GBR/2:23:12), Bai Xue (CHN/2:23:27), Yoshimi Ozaki (JPN/2:23:30), Liliya Shobukhova (RUS/2:24:24), Atsede Habtamu (ETH/2:24:47), Aselefech Mergia (ETH/2:25:02).

6. HAMBURG (25 April)

Entries: 20,000
Entries still possible: Yes
Web site: www.marathon-hamburg.de

Winner’s prize money: unknown
Total prize money (without time bonuses): unknown

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

Leading athletes and their best times:
Men: Wilfred Kigen (KEN) 2:07:33, Matthew Bowen (KEN/2:13:39), Martin Beckmann (LG Leinfelden-Echterdingen/2:13:42), James Yatich (KEN/2:14:19).
Women: possibly Ulrike Maisch (LAV Rostock).


Entriesl: 4,000
Entries still possible: Yes
Web site: www.metrogroup-marathon.de

Winner’s prize money: 7,000 Euro
Total prize money (without time bonuses): 35,750 Euro

Course records:
2:09:47 Bellor Yator (KEN/2007)
2:26:44 Luminita Zaituc (GER/2004)

Leading athletes and their best times:
Men: Yuriy Hychun (UKR/2:10:59), Dmitriy Semyonov (RUS/2:11:15), Andriy Toptun (UKR/2:12:41), Falk Cierpinski (SG Spergau/2:13:30), Tobias Sauter (SG Spergau/2:17:27).
Women: Natalya Volgina (RUS/2:27:32), Melanie Kraus (Bayer Leverkusen/2:27:58), Kirsten Otterbu (NOR/2:29:12), Mehtap Dogan (TUR/2:31:13).

The Ten Fastest Marathons of all Time

2:03:59 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Berlin 2008
2:04:26 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Berlin 2007
2:04:27 Duncan Kibet (KEN) Rotterdam 2009
2:04:27 James Kwambai (KEN) Rotterdam 2009
2:04:53 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Dubai 2008
2:04:55 Paul Tergat (KEN) Berlin 2003
2:04:56 Sammy Korir (KEN) Berlin 2003
2:05:04 Abel Kirui (KEN) Rotterdam 2009
2:05:10 Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) London 2009
2:05:15 Martin Lel (KEN) London 2008

2:15:25 Paula Radcliffe (GBR) London 2003
2:17:18 Paula Radcliffe (GBR) Chicago 2002
2:17:42 Paula Radcliffe (GBR) London 2005
2:18:47 Catherine Ndereba (KEN) Chicago 2001
2:18:56 Paula Radcliffe (GBR) London 2002
2:19:12 Mizuki Noguchi (JPN) Berlin 2005
2:19:19 Irina Mikitenko (GER) Berlin 2008
2:19:26 Catherine Ndereba (KEN) Chicago 2002
2:19:36 Deena Kastor (USA) London 2006
2:19:39 Yingjie Sun (CHN) Beijing 2003

World Marathon Majors (WMM)
Rankings for the 2009-2010 Series*

1.   Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) 50 Points
2.   Meb Keflezighi (USA) 25
      Deriba Merga (ETH) 25
      Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 25
      Abel Kirui (KEN) 25
      Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 25
7.   Emmanuel Mutai (KEN) 20
      Jaouad Gharib (MAR) 20
9.   Robert K. Cheruiyot (KEN) 16
10. Francis Kiprop (KENI) 15
      Daniel Rono (KEN) 15
      Abderrahim Goumri (MAR) 15
      Ryan Hall (USA) 15

1.   Irina Mikitenko (GER) 40
2.   Liliya Shobukhova (RUS) 35
3.   Salina Kosgei (KEN) 26
4.   Derartu Tulu (ETH) 25
      Atsede Habtamu (ETH) 25
      Xue Bai (CHN) 25
7.   Silvia Skvortsova (RUS) 15
      Dire Tune (ETH) 15
      Mara Yamauchi (GBR) 15
      Ludmila Petrova (RUS) 15
      Yoshimi Ozaki (JPN) 15

(*Each WMM Series takes place over a two-year-cycle. Each of the two winners receives 500,000 US-Dollars in prize money)