The course record is the goal in the men's race of the 11th METRO GROUP Marathon Duesseldorf this Sunday. Taking into account the enormous development of men's elite marathon times this mark of 2:08:27 looks almost out of date. The best field ever assembled for the race is supposed to attack and lower the mark on Sunday. Seven runners will be on the starting line with personal bests of sub 2:10. The fastest on paper is Kenya's Paul Biwott with a PB of 2:06:54. In contrast to the men's race the women's event has a clear favourite: Ethiopia's Melkam Gizaw returns to the race at the river Rhine, where she finished third in 2012. Adding other events organisers registered around 14,000 athletes of which 4,250 are marathon runners. The METRO GROUP Marathon Duesseldorf is an IAAF Bronze Label Race.
"We have signed seven runners with personal bests of sub 2:10 because we want to see a thrilling race and not one, where one runner is all on his own in the lead," explained Christoph Kopp, the Elite Race Coordinator, during a press conference that was held at Duesseldorf Airport on Friday. Ironically the fastest man in the field was not present, because Paul Biwott had missed his flight back in Kenya on Thursday. Originally another Kenyan had been the fastest runner on the start list: But Duncan Kibet, who has a PB of 2:04:27 and is the Rotterdam Marathon course record holder, had to cancel on short notice because of a muscle injury.
Paul Biwott, who ran his personal best of 2:06:54 when finishing sixth in Amsterdam in 2011, will run with bib number 2 on Sunday. This is worth mentioning since Christoph Kopp has a habit of handing his personal favourite bib number 7. This one he has given to Duncan Koech. The 31 year-old Kenyan has just missed out on victory in Duesseldorf a year ago. He finished second with 2:08:33 and was only six seconds behind Ethiopia's Seboka Diriba Tola. Duncan Koech ran his personal best of 2:07:53 slightly further up the Rhine in Cologne last autumn, where he was third.
"I am well prepared and want to run a personal best on Sunday. Hopefully in what will be my 13th marathon I will improve to around 2:07," said Duncan Koech, who comes from Kapsabet. Since he ran his first marathon in 2008 winning in Hannover, he managed to improve his PB every year. On Sunday Duncan Koech hopes to keep his rhythm. He got some good inspiration last Sunday, when he was back in Kenya: "I watched Eliud Kipchoge winning the Hamburg Marathon (with a course record of 2:05:30 in his debut). I was very happy, because Eliud is my idol. We know each other very well since we are almost neighbours in Kapsabet."
Duncan Koech expects a strong challenge from his fellow-Kenyans Pius Ondoro (PB: 2:08:00) and Cosmas Kigen (2:09:43) on Sunday. Three Ethiopians complete the group of runners entered with personal bests of sub 2:10: Solomon Tsige Asfaw (2:09:01), Dereje Debele Tulu (2:09:08) and Haylu Dogaga Abebe (2:09:34). The two time winner of the Athens Marathon (2010 and 2012), Raymond Bett (Kenya/2:11:32), could do well on Sunday and there is debutant Milton Rotich. The Kenyan has a half marathon best of 60:43 from 2012 and ran 27:46 in a 10 k in Cardiff in 2011.
In contrast to the men's race a women's course record (2:25:49) looks unlikely. Ethiopia's Melkam Gizaw is the only runner entered with a PB of sub 2:30. She ran 2:26:52 in Eindhoven in 2011 and then clocked 2:27:50 in Duesseldorf last year. Two debutants might well go with her pace on Sunday: Rebecca Chesire (Kenya) has a half marathon best of 70:45. Addisalem Demeke Mekonnen is an unknown in international road running so far. The Ethiopian will compete in Europe for the first time.
In her second marathon Germany's Veronica Pohl could achieve a good place. After her 2:34:59 debut in Frankfurt last October she intends to well improve her time. The 27 year-old might even try to break the national qualifying standard for the World Championships in Moscow this summer. She would need to run 2:30:30 for that.
More information is available at: MetroGroup-Marathon.de.
Duncan Koech during the press conference at the Duesseldorf Airport - Photo: Victah Sailer / photorun.net