Cheshari Jacob and Souad Ait Salem won the men's and women's races at the 25th edition of the HAJ Hannover Marathon on Sunday.
In very good weather conditions 31 year-old Kenyan Jacob clocked 2:09:32. In a close finish Ethiopia’s Chala Bekele had been in the lead briefly in the final kilometre but then had to settle for second in 2:09:42. Martin Kosgey of Kenya also ran a sub 2:10 time with 2:09:50 for third place.
Algeria’s national marathon record holder Souad Ait Salem built a big lead during the second half and clocked a fine 2:27:21.
The 36 year-old missed the course record by just 14 seconds. Olha Kotovska of Ukraine was second with 2:29:13 and South Africa’s Mapaseka Makhanya clocked a personal best of 2:31:02 to take third.
Adding other races at shorter distances the HAJ Hannover Marathon had a record entry of slightly over 20,000 runners. The event is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
With temperatures slightly below 10 Celsius at the start, overcast skies and hardly any wind conditions were almost perfect. And the pace was during the first part of the race.
A big leading group passed the 10 km point in 30:08 minutes. 15 runners including three pacemakers then reached the half way point in 64:08 – a pace just inside the course record of 2:08:32 set by South Africa’s Lusapho April two years ago.
However once the pacemakers dropped out at the 25 km point the pace dropped considerably for around six kilometres. Nine runners were still in contention.
“There was no one pushing and it turned tactical,” said Cheshari Jacob, who has a personal best of 2:07:46 from Frankfurt in 2013.
It was Jacob who then surged ahead around 32 km, covering the next few kilometre sections below 3:00 minutes. The group split up immediately and Jacob was about five seconds in front of Bekele and Kosgey after 35 km.
The Ethiopian managed to catch the leader around the 40 km mark. Bekele then even took the lead briefly with less than a kilometre to go. But Jacob responded, went clear and finally won with an advantage of ten seconds.
“I knew I had something left and was confident that I would overtake him,” said Jacob, who comes from Iten.
“It is my aim to achive a time of 2:06 one day and I think it is possible in Hannover, because the course is flat,” said Jacob, who will now target an autumn marathon. “I would like to run in Frankfurt in October,” he said after his biggest career win so far.
A group of five women – Ethiopians Kidist Tedla, Ayantu Hailemaryam and Aynalem Woldemichael, defending champion Souad Ait Salem and Kenyan debutant Maryanne Wanjiru – passed the 10 km mark in a 34:26, a 2:25 pace.
They were still running together beyond the 15 km point. However before half way Wanjiru dropped out while Tedla and Hailemaryam also did not make it to the finish.
With a 1:12:55 half way split only Salem and Woldemichael were left in the first group. The Ethiopian then fell back between 25 and 30 km and was a minute behind the Algerian at 30 km.
Ait Salem reached that point in 1:43:50. Still well inside the course record set by Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska in 2013 (2:27:07) she was going strong.
“But during the final two kilometres I had a cramp in my calf,” said Souad Ait Salem, who slowed but still clocked her second best marathon time with 2:27:21. Her personal record stands at 2:25:08.
“I was not aware that I was that close to the course record at this late stage. But I am very happy with my performance. The weather was perfect and it is a very good course,” said Souad Ait Salem.
While second placed Olha Kotovska was well behind in second with 2:29:13 third placed Mapaseka Makhanya improved by more than five minutes from 2:36:36 to 2:31:02.
The South African reached the qualifying times for both, the World Championships this year and the Olympic Games in Rio 2016.
1. Cheshari Jacob KEN 2:09:32
2. Chala Bekele ETH 2:09:42
3. Martin Kosgey KEN 2:09:50
4. Munyo Mutai KEN 2:10:42
5. Augustine Ronoh KEN 2:10:45
6. Benjamin Kolum KEN 2:11:09
7. Weldon Kirui KEN 2:12:47
8. Patrick Kimeli KEN 2:18:15
9. Dominico Ricatti ITA 2:18:23
10. Habetamu Beyene ETH 2:19:31
1. Souad Ait Salem ALG 2:27:21
2. Olha Kotovska UKR 2:29:13
3. Mapaseka Makhanya RSA 2:31:02
4. Vaida Zusinaite LTU 2:37:59
5. Aynalem Woldemichael ETH 2:38:11