Running in relatively warm conditions, Kenya's Allan Kiprono and Fate Tola of Germany produced convincing victories at the HAJ Hannover Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (9).
In what was his biggest career win, Kiprono clocked 2:09:52 to take the men's race ahead of compatriot Philip Sanga and Norway's Sondre Moen who both clocked 2:10:07 to finish second and third.
In the women's race, Tola clocked 2:27:48 to secure her spot on the German team for the IAAF World Championships London 2017. She was well ahead of Ukraine’s Nataliya Lehonkova and Mulunesh Asefa of Ethiopia, who clocked 2:33:20 and 2:37:27 respectively.
A group of nine runners passed the half marathon mark in 1:05:04, hitting almost exactly their target time of 65 minutes-flat. While there were still eight men running in the lead at 30 kilometres (1:32:33), the group was reduced to five shortly thereafter. It was then that Sanga, the fastest man in the field with a PB of 2:06:07, who took the lead.
The group stretched out, but Kiprono, Moen, defending champion Lusapho April of South Africa and Nicholas Kamakya of Kenya managed to catch Sanga. He pushed the pace again at around the 35-kilometre point, a moved that whittled the field further. April and Kamakya dropped out of contention but Kiprono and Moen continued to give chase.
With thousands of spectators lining the sunny streets, a thrilling battle for the podium positions began. First it was Moen who dropped back, before Kiprono caught and overtook Sanga with about four kilometres to go before forging onwards to finish unthreatened. Moen also passed Sanga just before the 40-kilometre mark, but their positions were reversed as they approached the finish with Sanga squeezing by for second.
For the 27-year-old Kiprono, Hannover was his first marathon victory.
"I had spoken to Philip during the race and suggested that we should work together," said Kiprono, who ran his 2:09:38 personal best in Frankfurt in 2013. "However he wanted do it all alone. When I took the lead I was never sure I would win. I just gave everything."
But he believes he has more to give.
"I want to go back to Frankfurt in October and improve to 2:06 or 2:07," said Kiprono, who is coached by German Dieter Hogen.
"I got stitches and then I had some stomach problems from 33-k on because I drank too much during the race," said the 26-year-old Moen, who was 19th in the 2016 Olympic marathon and whose previous personal best was 2:12:54.
"It was a pity, because my legs were fine, but whenever I tried to run faster the stomach problems stopped me. It is a pity that I could not break 2:10. However I am very happy about the Norwegian record."
The record he broke was set 30 years ago by Geir Kvernmo who clocked 2:10:17 at the 1987 London Marathon.
Behind Sanga and Moen Kenya's Kamakya finished fourth in 2:11:35. April, a three-time Hannover winner and the course record holder, was fifth in 2:11:41. That performance should secure his selection for August's World Championships squad.
Hopes were high for Germany with national record holder Arne Gabius in the field, but the 36-year-old was forced to drop out in the 32nd kilometre with an achilles tendon problem.