Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge in action at the 2012 World Half Marathon Championships (© Getty Images)
When Eliud Kipchoge toes the line for the Haspa Marathon Hamburg, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on April 21, it will be one of the most eagerly-awaited Marathon debuts in recent years.
Over the past decade the 28-year-old Kenyan has established himself as one of the world’s best distance runners across various surfaces. After winning the junior title at the 2003 World Cross Country Championships, he went on to win the World 5000m title later that summer in an epic battle with legendary athletes Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham El Guerrouj.
In the years that followed, he won Olympic bronze in 2004, World silver in 2007 and Olympic silver in 2008 – all over 5000m. A superb indoor runner, he also took World indoor 3000m bronze in 2006 and is one of just six men to have broken 13 minutes for 5000m indoors.
The one surface left for him to conquer is the roads, particularly the longer distances. He has already shown much promise, winning the Carlsbad 5000 in 2010 and breaking 27 minutes for 10km on a downhill course in Madrid in 2006.
Last year he stepped up to the Half-marathon and clocked an impressive 59:25 on his debut at the distance before finishing a respectable sixth at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna. In his only race of 2013 so far, he won the Barcelona Half Marathon in 60:04, winning by more than 80 seconds.
But now Kipchoge is getting ready to move up again in distance by tackling 26.2 miles in Hamburg. The focus of this year’s race will be on fast times with a small but strong group of elite athletes who could challenge the course record of 2:05:58 set last year by Ethiopia’s Abdullah Dawit Shami.
Kipchoge will be joined in Hamburg by 2010 World Half Marathon champion Wilson Kiprop. To date, the Kenyan has only contested one full Marathon, finishing fifth in Prague in 2010 with 2:09:09. But Kiprop, the 2010 African 10,000m champion, will go into Hamburg in the form of his life after equalling his Half-marathon PB earlier this month when winning the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon in 59:15.
Also included in the field are Ethiopia’s Chele Dechasa, a former runner-up in Amsterdam and Dubai with a PB of 2:06:33, last year’s Fukuoka Marathon winner Joseph Gitau of Kenya, 2012 Cologne Marathon runner-up Limenih Getachew of Ethiopia, and Lawrence Kimaiyo, winner in Kosice last year with a 2:07:01 PB.
This year’s Haspa Marathon Hamburg is also aiming to give as many athletes as possible the opportunity to achieved qualifying times for this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, so there will be a second group of runners being paced to half way in 66 minutes. This group will include athletes from various countries such as Russia, Romania, Australia, Portugal and South Africa.
The fastest entrant in the women’s race is Ukraine’s Kateryna Stetsenko, who set her 2:27:51 personal best when finishing second in Dublin in 2010. She came within a minute of that mark in last year’s Tokyo Marathon, where she finished eighth.
Kenya’s Magdaline Mukunzi, winner in Dublin last year, is also expected to do well, while home hopes will be high for Germany’s Lisa Hahner who made a promising Marathon debut in Frankfurt last year with her time of 2:31:28.
Jon Mulkeen and organisers for the IAAF
ELITE FIELD (with PBs)
Chele Dechasa (ETH) 2:06:33
Joseph Gitau (KEN) 2:06:58
Lawrence Kimaiyo (KEN) 2:07:01
Limenih Getachew (ETH) 2:07:39
Daniel Abera (ETH) 2:08:52
Wilson Kiprop (KEN) 2:09:09
Henry Chirchir (KEN) 2:09:24
Dmitriy Safronov (RUS) 2:09:35
Jacob Cheshari (KEN) 2:09:43
Grigoriy Andreev (RUS) 2:10:25
Titus Masai (KEN) 2:18:20
Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) debut
Vincent Yator (KEN) debut
Yekeber Bayabel (ETH) debut
Kateryna Stetsenko (UKR) 2:27:51
Diana Lobacevske (LTU) 2:28:03
Malikah Asahssah (MAR) 2:30:23
Caroline Chepkwony (KEN) 2:30:34
Magdaline Mukunzi (KEN) 2:30:46
Iulia Arkhipova (KGZ) 2:30:57
Almaz Alemu (ETH) 2:31:27
Lisa Hahner (GER) 2:31:28
Kidist Fiseha (ETH) 2:39:42