BMW Frankfurt Marathon

Wilson Kipsang promises fireworks

Wilson Kipsang established the course record of 2:04:57 in 2010. On Sunday he intends to break the world record.

Wilson Kipsang was watching television back home in Kenya a month ago; seeing compatriot Patrick Makau break the marathon world record in Berlin, he thought to himself, “I can do that”. We know this, because Kipsang told us yesterday.

Kipsang, who is now in Germany himself, to defend the BMW Frankfurt Marathon title he won last year, is not a man given to idle boasts. Prior to last year’s race, he was asked what his objectives were. “I have three goals,” he said. “To set a personal best (then 2.07.10), to break the course record (then 2.06.14), and to break 2.06”. Good as his word, Kipsang went out and ran 2.04.57, the third fastest of the year, and the eighth best in history.

Not slow to cut the chase themselves, the assembled journos at yesterday press conference came straight out with it, ‘Can you break the world record on Sunday?” Kipsang restricted himself to two goals this time. “One of the expectations is to run a personal best, the other is to break the world record”. He followed that by expressing a wish to go through halfway in 61.50, which compares to Makau’s 61.44 on his way to the new record of 2.03.38.

That Kipsang is capable of fulfilling his latest prognostic in underlined by his only marathon since last year’s win here in Germany’s finance capital. With just four kilometres to race in the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan in March, Kipsang was shoulder to shoulder with Ethiopian Deriba Merga, Beijing Olympic fourth placer. Kipsang won by precisely three minutes.

These sorts of predictions are uncharacteristic of Kenyan runners, and Kipsang is otherwise a circumspect 29 year old from an upcountry town in the western highlands, who appreciates the material gain that his talent has brought him. As he said, “first of all, I was able to help my close family, then my extended family, and then my community”.

Given that Frankfurt is the finance capital of Germany, it was inevitable that the talk should turn to money. Kipsang is no mug. “Time is more important than money,” he said, “and anyway, if I break the world record, the money will follow”. For the record, if he breaks the record, he will net €125,000 ($177,250).

Leading rival and one of his predecessors as winner here, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot is more typical of the ‘quiet Kenyan’. Not to be confused with Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (they have both won the Boston Marathon), this Robert K had his breakthrough here in 2008, when he won in a then course record of 2.07.21. Another colleague Gilbert Kirwa then won 2009, in a record 2.06.14, with Robert K second in a personal best 2.06.23. He bettered that when he won Boston last year, in 2.05.50. He was almost apologetic in saying, “Frankfurt 2008 was my first race outside (Kenya), and I ran ‘something’. I think I can do ‘something’ on Sunday, to show you again, like I did in 2008 and 2009”.

The other leading men are Merga, who only lost Olympic bronze in the last 400 metres to one of his Ethiopian colleagues in Beijing. He said he has no regrets about that experience, having gone out early in the race and hard, which has come to typify his racing tactics. This time, he says (through an interpreter), “I’m going to follow the pacemaker, then whoever is in the lead. I think I can do sub-2.05, but there are others in the race who can do the same”. Statistics favour the Kenyans, who have won every year here since 2002.

If Robert K is the yardstick, then expectations surrounding Flomena Chepchirchir’s debut marathon will not go unrewarded. The Kenyan, 29, has won two half-marathons in just a few seconds either side of 69 minutes this year, and also won the Berlin 25k in 1.23.22. Her manager Gerard van de Veen reckons she can run around 2.25, and that would suggest a good race with her colleague, Agnes Kiprop, whose best is 2.24.07, and Ethiopians Merima Mohamed (2.23.06), and Mamita Daska, who won Dubai last year in 2.24.19. German hope, Sabrina Mockenhaupt, who won here in 2008 in 2.26.22, is looking to run 2.24, but knows anything under 2.30 will qualify her for London 2012. An outsider is Moroccan born Italian (who has also competed for Bahrein) Nadia Ejaffini, who ran a sub-69min half-marathon recently.

The BMW Frankfurt Marathon enjoys one the most unusual finish areas in world marathoning. The last 100 metres of the race is run inside the 19th century Festhalle, which for those of you who know London better than Frankfurt resembles the Royal Albert Hall. That latter venue is well known for its Proms concerts, featuring largely classical music. In true local style, the Festhalle on Sunday morning features an oompah band, and a spectacular indoor fireworks display to greet the winners. This year, Kipsang is promising fireworks all the way.


Please install Flash-Player!

Subscribe to Newsletter