There were course records and personal bests for Wilfred Kigen of Kenya (2.08.29) and Alvetina Biktimirova of Russia (2.25.12) in the Messe Frankfurt Marathon this morning (Sunday), but for a long time, things looked very different. When Leonid Shvetsov of Russia accelerated away from the pacemakers with less than 10 kilometres to run, it looked briefly as if we might get a European, or rather, non-Kenyan man winning of a big-city marathon. In the women’s race, Marleen Renders of Belgium had a lead close to four minutes at one stage.
Shvetsov’s dream lasted less than five minutes. The Kenyans regrouped, attacked, and left Shvetsov reflecting on his tactic to improve on his second place here two years ago. But he did contribute considerably to the third successive course record. Charles Kibiwot made a similar bid for glory with five kilometres to go, but a sprint which took him rapidly away from his colleagues looked suicidal, and so it proved. Brothers Wilfred and Wilson Kigen, along with compatriot, Jason Mbote pulled him back, and it was Wilfred who won the sprint as the race went off the road, to end in the city centre ‘Gut Stubb’ or Festival Hall. Mbote however managed to split the brothers, of whom, Wilfred is he elder, at 30, by five years.
“I only knew I had it when we came into the hall with about 100 metres to run,” said Wilfred. When Kibiwot pulled away, I thought he was going too fast, so I decided to run at my own pace. I thought I could come back”. And so he did, beating his previous best of 2.09.18, set in finishing second in Hamburg earlier this year, by over three quarters of a minute. “I’d like to go back to Hamburg next year, and win this time,” he added.
That one second under 2.08.30 cost the organiser dearly, for it meant that Wilson got a bonus of 25,000 euros to add to the 10,000 for the victory. Mbote split the brothers, with a time of 2.08.30, which nevertheless earned him a bonus of 20,000 euros, added to 7,500 for second place. Wilson Kigen clocked 2.08.34, to earn 10,000 bonus and 5,000 prize money. Kibiwot, fourth in 2.08.36 won 5,000 bonus and 3,000 prize money. All four broke the course record of 2.09.10, set last year by Boaz Kimaiyo, who dropped out at 33k with hamstring problems. Shvetsov too had groin problems in the final kilometres, but finished fifth in 2.10.05.
But his compatriot Biktimirova was the story of the day. She knocked no few than six minutes off her personal best, and was understandably elated at the finish. “I wanted to break 2.30 (her best was 2.31.39, second in Torino this year), but I never expected anything like this. I knew I was a long way behind Renders at halfway, but when I began to see her at 30k, I felt stronger than I did at the start. I knew I could catch her at that point”.
The Russian flew past the Belgian at 36k, and won by over a minute. Renders, 37, and having her first marathon in three years, after two hamstring operations, denied that she had begun too quickly. She had certainly made good her promise to attack the record of 2.26.01, from Luminita Zaituc in 2001. Renders was on 2.24 pace for long periods. “I would have been OK, I think, but I started to have hamstring problems at 30k,” she said, “and when the Russian came past she went so quickly I could do nothing”. Nevertheless, even wilting badly at the end, she acquitted herself well with her 2.26.26. Tola Roba of Ethiopia was third in 2.29.30.
The race begins late for a European marathon, 11am, but the weather was not as warm as anticipated - 12C at the start, and 18C (64F) at the finish. There was a record entry of 17,000 for all races, with another record of 11,000 starters in the marathon.
1 Wilfred KIGEN KEN 2:08:29
2 Jason MBOTE KEN 2:08:30
3 Wilson KIGEN KEN 2:08:34
4 Charles KIBIWOT KEN 2:08:36
5 Leonid SHVETSOV RUS 2:10:05
6 Tesfaye DEREJE ETH 2:11:47
7 Philip TARUS KEN 2:12:33
8 Matthew BIRIR KEN 2:12:41
9 Abraham TANDOI KEN 2:13:04
10 Peter KORIR KEN 2:14:22
1 Alevtina BIKTIMIROVA RUS 2:25:12
2 Marleen RENDERS BEL 2:26:26
3 Tola ROBA ETH 2:29:30
4 Mary PITKANY KEN 2:29:45
5 Svetlana PONOMARENKO RUS 2:31:26
6 Mindaye GESHU ETH 2:33:05
7 Tatyana ZHIRKOVA RUS 2:37:06
8 Olga GLOK RUS 2:38:06
9 Tanith MAXWELL RSA 2:41:03
10 Veronika ULRICH GER 2:51:07