BMW Frankfurt Marathon

Patrick Makau takes victory at the BMW Frankfurt Marathon, debutant Meselech Melkamu storms to course record

Patrick Makau (Foto: T. Mochizuki)

Meselech Melkamu (Foto: T. Mochizuki)

Patrick Makau of Kenya won the 31st BMW Frankfurt Marathon with a record field of 16,034 participants on a cool bright morning, as expected. But the manner of his victory, in 2.06.08, was far from expected. On a clear, sunny morning, but with temperatures struggling to reach 2C (35F), Makau never looked comfortable at the back of a leading group of a dozen. As that group diminished with successive surges, Makau dropped off the back several times, only to fight back into contention.

When Deressa Chimsa of Ethiopia shot away from the final quintet at 34k, leaving Makau 50 metres in arrears, another victory in Germany for the Kenyan, who is still unbeaten on German soil, looked a distant dream. But Makau isn’t world record holder for nothing. He gradually reeled in the Ethiopian, took the lead at 39k, and opened up a winning margin close to three-quarters of a minute, coming home to the unique finish on the red carpet, greeted by fireworks, cheerleaders and ear-splitting music inside Frankfurt’s old Festhalle (Festival Hall).

“My legs weren’t working today,” said Makau, explaining his sluggish performance. “They just weren’t reacting. But I found the strength in the end”. Makau’s manager Zane Branson claimed that the runner had maintained an even pace throughout, and that the ten, 20 and 50 metres gaps he conceded in the second half of the race were simply the result of surges by rivals. It says much for Makau’s pace judgement and confidence that he stayed true to his belief that his own pace would eventually take him to victory.

A new world record was never in prospect, as the leading group strolled through the first two kilometres in 6.08, already 17sec off pace, then a first 10k in 29.56, 39sec adrift of Makau’s split in Berlin 2011, when he ran his WR 2.03.38. By 15k, the gap was 51sec, nevertheless one of the favourites, Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia, who won Rotterdam in April in 2.04.48, was 38sec behind the leaders. 

Makau briefly lost touch with the leaders after halfway, although it had been run in 62.52, over a minute slower than expected. It was no longer question of a world record, rather would Makau finish, since he seemed to be having muscle problem.
“For me it was the hardest marathon I’ve run,” he said later. “My body just didn’t feel right. My muscles were contracted due to the cold condition. I told my body not accelerate but to keep a moderate speed. But I have a lot of experience of the marathon. I knew from 35,37k, I would have time to attack, and by then my body was feeling better. I’m satisfied with what I’ve run, but it’s not what I was expecting. The course is good, one of the best I’ve run. With the right preparation, it’s a world record course”. But today, grit won out, because Makau was far from his world record, and even from the course record of 2.03.42, set by his compatriot, Wilson Kipsang last year.

In contrast, the leading women always looked well on the way to a new course record, as indeed proved the case. At 15k, defending champion and record holder (2.21.59), Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia was heading a group of five, including her debutante colleague, Meselech Melkamu, another Ethiopian, Bezunesh Bekele, and two Kenyans, Georgina Rono and Agnes Barsosio. Bekele was the first to drop, at 30k, but she hung in and eventually passed Barsosio to finish fourth. But when Melkamu made her effort at 37k, the remaining trio split up, and Melkamu, not only running her first marathon, but her first race over 10k, went away to an impressive debut victory, in 2.21.01, taking close to a minute off Daska’s record from last year. In chasing Melkamu, Rono outdistanced Daska, and was a clear second in 2.21.39, also under the course record; with the defending champion well-beaten in third place, in 2.23.56.


1. Patrick Makau KEN 2:06:08
2. Deressa Chimsa ETH 2:06:52
3. Gilbert Kirwa KEN 2:07:354. Peter Some KEN 2:08:29
5. Bazu Worku ETH 2:08:35
6. Albert Matebor KEN 2.08.53
7. Victor Kipchirchir KEN 2.09.13
8. Shume Legesse ETH 2.10.01
9. Tola Bane ETH 2.10.58
10. Isaias Beyn ERI 2.11.53

16. Sören Kah GER 2:13:57

1. Meselech Melkamu ETH 2:21:01
2. Georgina Rono KEN 2:21:39
3. Mamitu Daska ETH 2:23:52
4. Bezunesh Bekele ETH 2:23:58
5. Agnes Barsosio KEN 2:24:27
6. Zemzem Ahmed ETH 2.27.16
7 Iwona Lewandowska POL 2.28.36
8. Lisa Hahner GER 2.31.28
9. Tetyana Vernyhor UKR 2.33.51
10. Catherine Bertone ITA 2.34.58


Patrick Makau, Men’s Champion in 2:06:08
“That was my toughest marathon so far. My body just wasn’t reacting properly.
My muscles were getting tight because of the cold and so I said to myself, don’t speed up and I didn’t run too fast. I had to be patient and stay focussed to follow my colleagues. I never thought of giving up. From 35 kilometres I was sure I could win.”

Meselech Melkamu
, Women’s Champion and new course record holder in 2:21:01
“My preparation in a strong training group had gone very well. I felt very good from the start. I only began to think about winning from 35 kilometres. This victory is my biggest success. It was my first marathon and I’ll certainly be running more marathons. I found it cold today, I had wanted to run faster. I believe that with good preparation I can run under 2:18, that’s my goal for my next marathon.”

Asked about changing her hair colour to gold: “When I go home, I’ll change the colour again but it’ll be gold again for a competition.”

Jo Schindler, Race Director, BMW Frankfurt Marathon
“The event was world-class, even if the actual result as far as times were concerned wasn’t what we’d hoped for. We saw today what sport is all about. It was clear from early on that the athletes weren’t going to be able to put the plan to break the world record into action. What we had today was a “World Record in a Fridge.” Patrick Makau had muscle problems and showed impressive fighting spirit. Hats off to him! We’ve put the world record on ice and want to take it out of the fridge next year. It’s clear that we want to offer top-class international sport and be on track to produce top times. The course record and third fastest debut of all time by Meselech Melkamu is an extraordinary performance and also shows what could have been possible in good conditions.”   

Christoph Kopp, Elite Race Director, BMW Frankfurt Marathon
“We’ve had exciting races and the spectators must be very happy and so am I. Eleven personal bests among the top 15 women and seven for the men shows the race’s high quality. You could see that Melkamu felt at home with the distance, right from the start. The men ran very conservatively. In general we can be very satisfied. Individuals cope with cold conditions differently. Patrick Makau showed what strong will power he has and will power can move mountains. He’s a competitor!


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