Seven men with personal bests of sub 2:10 will compete in Sunday's TUI Marathon Hannover. Among them is one former champion, who is regarded as the favourite: Evans Ruto of Kenya, who took the race in 2009, returns to the city. In the meantime he has improved to 2:07:49 and hopes to break Hannover's course record of 2:08:32. While 40 year-old fellow-Kenyan Francis Bowen intends to attack the World Master record on this very flat course the women's favourite is Algeria's Souad Ait Salem. Adding other events organisers registered a record number of 17,591 athletes so far. The TUI Marathon Hannover is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
Evans Ruto looks ahead optimistic to Sunday's race: "I am very happy to be here for a second time. I have great memories of this flat and fast course. So I returned with a very good feeling regarding a possible attack on the course record." The present course record of 2:08:32 was established only a year ago by South Africa's Lusapho April.
Ruto hopes to be able to take a second big marathon victory this year. Back in January the 30 year-old already won the Mumbai Marathon in a fine 2:09:33. "After Mumbai I rested for three weeks and recovered well. My preparation was very good. If the pacemakers do a good job and the weather is fine, a course record is possible. The pace of 64:00 for the half marathon is fine for me. My goal is to win the race," said Evans Ruto.
Francis Bowen also plans for a pace that could lead him to the course record. However the 40 year-old Kenyan targets a different mark on Sunday: Bowen wants to break the Master World Record. It was Mexico's Andres Espinosa who established the present record of 2:08:46 in Berlin back in 2003. Bowen has shown that he is still capable of running such a time. Last year he clocked 2:08:53 for third place in Chunchon when he was already 40 years old. Hannover's course, which is the flatest of Germany's international marathons, could be ideal for Bowen, who is a training partner of Evans Ruto. "I want to break that record. It kept me motivated for years. I still can run 2:08, maybe 2:07. In Chunchon I was inside the record until 40 kilometres. On Sunday younger runners may be faster when it comes to the finish but I'm experienced and I'm focused on breaking the record", said Bowen who started training seriously only when he was 30.
The fastest runner on Hannover's start list is Kenya's Ben Maiyo. Back in 2005 he was second in Chicago with 2:07:09. However in recent years Maiyo could not produce similar performances. There are others more likely to fight for a place on the podium. One of them is Mekuant Ayenew. The Ethiopian knows Hannover well. He was second here a year ago with a personal best of 2:10:05.
Since the withdrawel of the course record holder and defending champion Olena Burkovska the one to beat in the women's race is Algeria's Souad Ait Salem. Ukraine's Burkovska clocked 2:27:07 a year ago, but she had to cancel on short notice due to an injury. Salem will go for that course record on Sunday. Algeria's national record holder has a personal best of 2:25:08. She clocked that time when she took the Rome Marathon in 2007. While she ran her last marathon when placing 31st in the Olympic race in London in 2012 Salem she competed in two half marathons in March. First she clocked 70:36 for eighth place in the Rome Ostia race and then she was 25th with 71:23 in the very competitive World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen.
Two weeks after her twin sister Anna sensationally took the Vienna City Marathon Lisa Hahner hopes to achieve a podium place for the first time in her career as well. The 24year-old's chances have significantly increased because of Burkovska's withdrawel. However a foot problem has partly hampered Hahner's preparations for Hannover. The German, who has a PB of 2:30:17 from Frankfurt last year, will take a more careful approach and intends to run the first half in 1:15:30.
Hahner's main rival for a podium place might be Nadeshda Leonteva. The Russian has a PB of 2:31:57 and hopes to break 2:30 on Sunday. Kenya's Bornes Kitur could produce a surprise. Hannover will be her first marathon outside Kenya, where she clocked 2:45:52 in the high altitude race of Eldoret. South Africa's Nolene Conrad will run her marathon debut on Sunday.
More information about the TUI Marathon Hannover is available online at: Marathon-Hanover.de.
Lisa Hahner (left) with her twin sister Anna and Evans Ruto during the press conference for the race, Photo credit: TUI Marathon Hannover / Florian Arp