Gilbert Kirwa winning the Vienna City Marathon 2009 (© Victah Sailer)
The course record will be the goal in the men’s race of the Vienna City Marathon on 15 April.
Organisers of Austria’s biggest sporting event, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, who had recently signed superstars Haile Gebrselassie and Paula Radcliffe for a unique chase race in the Half Marathon, have announced the first set of names for their main event, the Vienna City Marathon. Both the defending champions, Kenyan John Kiprotich and Fate Tola of Ethiopia, will be returning to the Austrian capital as will four more former champions of the race.
While the Half Marathon with Gebrselassie and Radclifee carries the title 'OMV Champions Race', the competition over the full distance will turn out to be a true champions’ race as well. Defending champion Kiprotich will not be the fastest in the field on 15 April, but the 23-year-old is determined to add another Vienna victory. In 2011 he caused a major surprise by beating the experienced Kenyan Patrick Ivuti and improving his personal best by more than seven minutes! Clocking 2:08:29 last year he was less than a minute away from the course record of 2:07:38, which was established by the current World Champion Abel Kirui in 2008. Kiprotich then further improved to 2:07:08 in Amsterdam in 2011. He has recently shown some promising form, when he was fourth in the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon in February in 1:00:02.
The fastest in the field so far is Gilbert Kirwa. Running his debut at the distance the Kenyan took the Vienna City Marathon in 2009 with 2:08:21. He then went on to improve to an impressive 2:06:14, when he won the Frankfurt Marathon that same year. Originally Kirwa had been signed by the Tokyo Marathon to run against Gebrselassie in February. But the Kenyan was not fully fit in time for the race in Japan and then opted for Vienna.
Luke Kibet is another major name in marathon running, who had originally been successful in Vienna and then went on to win big in the same year. It was in 2007 when the Kenyan took the race in Austria, clocking 2:10:07 in warm weather conditions. With this performance he earned a place on Kenya’s World Championships’ team. And in Osaka he then produced a sensation, when he ran away in the tremendously hot and humid conditions and won the gold medal.
Another Kenyan, Henry Sugut, is the fourth runner in the men’s race who has won the Vienna City Marathon in the past. He triumphed in 2010 with 2:08:40. A year ago Sugut improved to 2:08:22 in Paris.
Tola no longer underestimated
In the women’s race the defending champion will most probably return as the big favourite. A year ago it was a surprise that Tola took the honours, beating the likes of Portugal's Ana Dulce Felix and Peninah Arusei of Kenya. This time no-one will underestimate the tiny Ethiopian, who lives in Germany. The 24-year-old could well attack her personal best of 2:26:21, which she established in Vienna last year, once again. Currently Tola trains with German marathon star Irina Mikitenko in Albuquerque, USA.
The Ethiopian will be up against a very experienced marathon runner and one of the most successful in the history of the Vienna event: Luminita Talpos of Romania who won the race in 2007 and again in 2008 when she clocked her personal best of 2:26:43. Additionally Talpos finished fourth two years ago in Vienna.
Organisers for the IAAF