The Marathon Month of April: Highlights Every weekend

By Jörg Wenig

Some of the lead pack at last years London Marathon. ©

From London to Boston or from Rotterdam via Hamburg and Vienna – the top marathon races come thick and fast in April as in no other month. In these classic races, five-figure fields can be expected as well as times that lead the international rankings by the top athletes.

The London Marathon has in recent years been the yardstick in terms of quality of entry and results. The $65,000 first prize is by no means the biggest going, but the appearance fees are something else again: no one else can put so much money into appearance fees as the race director David Bedford. Nowhere else are the stars so thick on the ground as in London. Hence among those on the start line will be the Olympic champion Stefano Baldini (Italy) and the World champion Luke Kibet (Kenya). Paul Tergat, Kenya’s second fastest marathon runner of all time, has had to withdraw because of insufficient training. The women’s world record holder, Paula Radcliffe (Great Britain), was also entered but had to drop out, because of an injured toe.

Haile Gebrselassie ran in Dubai in January rather than in the British capital in April because he suffers from a pollen allergy, which forced him to drop out in London last year. The Ethiopian’s world best this year of 2:04:53 may well prove unbeatable in 2008. The man perhaps most likely to beat that time is, however, running in London: the world half marathon record holder Sammy Wanjiru (Kenya), who won his marathon debut with a classy 2:06:39 in Fukuoka in December. In London Wanjiru will encounter, among others, last year’s winner and the 2007 New York champion, Martin Lel (Kenya). Both want to qualify for Kenya’s Olympic marathon squad.

London also marks the start of this season’s World Marathon Majors. Well over two years ago the races in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York came together to form the series. The man and woman who gather the most points over two years share a jackpot of $1 million. In the current 2007-2008 season, Martin Lel (50 points) and Gete Wami (Ethiopia/55) are leading. Wami won the debut 2006-2007 series, and will be running in London. Irina Mikitenko (Germany) has chosen to run in what is the strongest women’s field of the spring races, despite Radcliffe’s withdraw. After her impressive debut in 2:24:51 last year in Berlin, there’s great excitement about whether she can improve in London.

The list of top ten performances of all time (see below) is evidence that the World Marathon Major races in London, Chicago and Berlin have been producing consistent high-class times for years. Only one of the top ten times was not run at a WMM race – Dubai for the men and Beijing for the women have one entry apiece.

The second World Marathon Majors race of the spring is run eight days after London in the U.S., when the 112th Boston Marathon takes place, as ever, on a Monday. In Boston the first winner of the World Marathon Majors, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (Kenya), will defend his title. The women’s race will mark the comeback of the course record holder, Margaret Okayo (Kenya/2:20:43).

A race that, as far as quality in the men’s event is concerned, is consistently among the best in the year is the Rotterdam Marathon. The world record has been broken three times on the flat Rotterdam course: Carlos Lopes (Portugal) ran 2:07:12 in 1985, Belayneh Dinsamo (Ethiopia) did 2:06:50 in 1988, and Tegla Loroupe (Kenya) finished in 2:20:43 in 1998.

Over 20,000 runners are expected to be running in Hamburg on the last Sunday in April. Wilfred Kigen could be the man to beat there. Last year the Kenyan lost a sprint duel in the last few meters to his compatriot Rodgers Rop, who will be running Rotterdam this time. Kigen, triple winner of the Frankfurt Marathon, could, however, be facing the Spaniard who holds the course record, Julio Rey (2:06:52). The Olympic qualifying time of 2:13 for men and 2:31 for women are also the targets for Germany’s Falk Cierpinski and Ulrike Maisch, the women’s European champion.

In recent years the Vienna Marathon, taking place for the 25th time on April 27, has risen higher up the international rankings. Taking all running competitions into account, there are over 25,000 entries for Austria’s biggest running event. In Vienna the Japanese Tomo Morimoto (fastest time of 2:24:33), who just missed qualifying for the Olympics, will be running against last year’s women’s champion Luminita Talpos (Romania/best of 2:27:32).

Facts and Figures for April’s Top Races


Date: April 13 Probable Number of Participants: 36,000 Probable Number of Spectators: One million First Prize: $65,000 Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): $295,000

Last Year’s Winners: Martin Lel (KEN) 2:07:41 Zhou Chunxiu (CHN) 2:20:38

Course Records: 2:05:38 Khalid Khannouchi (USA/2002) 2:15:25 Paula Radcliffe (GBR/WR/2003)

Favorites and Fastest Times:

Men: Felix Limo (KEN) 2:06:14, Emmanuel Mutai (KEN) 2:06:29, Sammy Wanjiru (KEN) 2:06:39, Martin Lel (KEN) 2:06:41, Hendrick Ramaala (RSA) 2:06:55, Jaouad Gharib (MAR) 2:07:02, Stefano Baldini (ITA) 2:07:22, Yonas Kifle (ERI) 2:07:34, Abderrahim Goumri (MAR) 2:07:44, Ryan Hall (USA) 2:08:24, Luke Kibet (KEN) 2:08:52, Aleksey Sokolov (RUS) 2:09:07

Women: Berhane Adere (ETH) 2:20:42, Constantina Tomescu-Dita (ROM) 2:21:30, Gete Wami (ETH) 2:21:34, Svetlana Zakharova (RUS) 2:21:31 Salina Kosgei (KEN) 2:23:22, Irina Mikitenko (TV Wattenscheid) 2:24:51



Date: April 13 Probable Number of Participants: 21,000 (including around 10,000 marathon runners) Probable Number of Spectators: 825,000 First Prize: Amount depends on performance

Last Year’s Winners: Joshua Chelanga (KEN) 2:08:21 Hiromi Ominami (JPN) 2:26:36

Course Records: 2:06:14 Felix Limo (KEN/2004) 2:21:47 Tegla Loroupe (KEN/1998)

Favorites and Fastest Times:

Men: Robert Cheboror (KEN) 2:06:23, William Kipsang (KEN) 2:06:39, Paul Kiprop Kirui (KEN) 2:06:44, Richard Limo (KEN) 2:06:45, Driss el Himer (FRA) 2:06:48, Joshua Chelanga (KEN) 2:07:05, Benjamin Maiyo (KEN) 2:07:09, Salim Kipsang (KEN) 2:07:29, Rodgers Rop (KEN) 2:07:32, Francisco Javier Cortez (ESP) 2:07:48, Jimmy Muindi (KEN) 2:07:50, Daniel Kipkoech Yego (KEN) 2:08:16, Solomon Bushendich (KEN) 2:08:52, Elijah Chemwolo Mutai (KEN) 2:09:27, Daniel Rono (KEN) 2:09:36, Charles Kamathi (KEN) 2:11:25, Janne Holmen (FIN) 2:12:10, Francis Kibiwott (KEN) Debut

Women: Malgorzata Sobanska (POL) 2:26:08, Ljubov Morgunova (RUS) 2:26:33, Akemi Ozaki (JPN) 2:28:39, Nadja Wijenber (NED) 2:28:45, Jemima Chelagat (KEN) 2:29:41, Shiru Deriba (ETH) 2:30:30



Date: April 21 Probable Number of Participants: 21,000 Probable Number of Spectators: 500,000 First Prize: $100,000 Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): $575,000

Last Year’s Winners: Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:14:13 Lidiya Grigoryeva (RUS) 2:29:18

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

Favorites and Fastest Times:

Men: William Kiplagat (KEN) 2:06:50, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:07:14, Patrick Ivuti (KEN) 2:07:46, Shadrack Kiplagat (KEN) 2:07:53, Gashaw Asfaw (ETH) 2:08:03, Christopher Cheboiboch (KEN) 2:08:17, Abderrahime Bouramdane (MAR) 2:08:20, Yirefu Birhanu (ETH) 2:09:01, Timothy Cherigat (KEN) 2:09:34, James Kwambai (KEN) 2:10:20, Kasime Adillo (ETH) 2:10:20, James Mwangi Macharia (KEN) 2:10:27, James Koskei (KEN) 2:14:02

Women: Margaret Okayo (KEN) 2:20:43, Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT) 2:22:56, Askale Tafa Magarsa (ETH) 2:23:23, Rita Jeptoo (KEN) 2:23:38, Robe Tola Guta (ETH) 2:24:35, Dire Tune (ETH) 2:24:40, Lidiya Grigoryeva (RUS) 2:25:10, Alevtina Biktimirova (RUS) 2:25:12, Bruna Genovese (ITA) 2:25:28, Tetyana Kuzina-Hladyr (UKR) 2:25:44, Magdaline Chemjor (KEN) 2:28:16



Date: April 27 Probable Number of Participants: 20,000 Probable Number of Spectators: 750,000 First Prize: $47,500 Total Prize Money (without time bonuses): $230,000

Last Year’s Winners: Rodgers Rop (KEN) 2:07:32 Ayelech Worku (ETH) 2:29:14

Course Records: 2:06:52 Julio Rey (ESP/2006) 2:24:35 Katrin Dörre-Heinig (GER/1999) and Robe Tola (ETH/2006)

Favorites and Fastest Times:

Men: Wilfred Kigen (KEN) 2:07:33, Julio Rey (ESP) 2:06:52 German athletes: Falk Cierpinski, 2:19:06

Women: Ulrike Maisch (GER) 2:30:01 Other top athletes still to be announced

The Ten Fastest Times in History


Haile GebrselassieETHBerlin30.09.2007
Haile GebrselassieETHDubai18.01.2008
Paul TergatKENBerlin28.09.2003
Sammy KorirKENBerlin28.09.2003
Khalid KhannouchiUSALondon14.04.2002
Khalid KhannouchiMARChicago24.10.1999
Paul TergatMARLondon14.04.2002
Evans RuttoKENChicago12.10.2003
Khalid KhannouchiUSAChicago13.10.2002
Haile GebrselassieETHBerlin24.09.2006
Paula RadcliffeGBRLondon13.04.2003
Paula RadcliffeGBRChicago13.10.2002
Paula RadcliffeGBRLondon17.04.2005
Catherine NderebaKENChicago07.10.2001
Paula RadcliffeGBRLondon14.04.2002
Mizuki NoguchiJPNBerlin25.09.2005
Catherine NderebaKENChicago13.10.2002
Deena KastorUSALondon23.04.2006
Yingjie SunCHNPeking19.10.2003
Yoko ShibuiJPNBerlin26.09.2004