• Top German hope Arne Gabius sets his sights high in Frankfurt

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 “We have a unique line-up in the elite field in that for the first time here, German athletes will have their share of the spotlight and not be tucked away among the international field,” reflected Jo Schindler, the Frankfurt Marathon race director before the 34th edition of the race beside the River Main. 


High drama is expected this Sunday as Arne Gabius, Germany’s number one in the marathon, takes aim at the national record. The lead group is under instructions to stay together through to 30 kilometres. “Then it will be a case of, every man for himself! I expect an exciting finish,” said Christoph Kopp, the elite race co-ordinator. And in that group should be Germany’s Arne Gabius, provided his plans live up to his pre-race training. The Frankfurt Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label race, the highest category of road event. Around 15,000 runners will be pursuing their individual dreams when the starting gun goes off at 10 o’ clock for the 34th edition of the Frankfurt Marathon on Sunday.

“It should develop into a great race and I’m going to grab my chance,” said the 34-year-old Gabius, whose aim is to break the German marathon record and cross the finish line in the Festhalle inside 2:08:47, set by Jörg Peter all of 27 years ago. The favourites for the title are Micah Kogo of Kenya and the Ethiopian duo of Sisay Lemma and Bazu Worku. The latter’s compatriots are strong favourites to capture the women’s title with Koren Jelela Yal the fastest in the field with 2:22:43 while Meseret Mengistu Biru ran her best of 2:23:26 to win Paris in April and Ashete Bekero Dido has 2:23:43 from tenth place in Dubai this January as her lifetime best.

Arne Gabius describes his preparations as “very, very good and definitely on a better level than last year.” That suggests a performance of high quality indeed since he surprised many with his marathon debut of 2:09:32. His Italian coach Renato Canova, renowned for his ability to develop athletes to a higher plane of performance, is certainly confident, telling Gabius that his training indicates a time of around2:07:30 is possible. Last year Canova’s pre-race prediction was 2:11 to 2:12. Gabius has certainly been putting in the effort in training, running up to 260 kilometres a week in the height of summer. He plans to be in the lead group which is aiming for 63:30 at halfway which would put him on course for 2:07 finish.

Gabius lacks nothing in confidence, making a clear statement of his intent: “I’m convinced I can break the record and by a good margin. There’s no reason to set yourself limits and I think a time under 2:08 is very feasible. I know it’s a big challenge on Sunday and a Marathon always has an element of risk and chance. But if I just go for a 2:08:30 time, I’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity for a faster time.” In addition the national Olympic qualifying time for Rio next year of 2:12:00 should be well within his compass. In parallel to his record pursuit, Arne Gabius is also understandably the red hot favourite for the men’s title in the German national championships which will be held in conjunction with the marathon.

In the race for the men’s title, Sisay Lemma looks the favourite. The Ethiopian ran his best of 2:07:06 to finish fifth in Dubai in January and then won the Vienna title in April, clocking 2:07:31. His compatriot Bazu Worku is the fastest in the field with 2:05:16. Kenya’s Micah Kogo should also be one to watch, the former world record holder for 10km has a best of 2:06:56 from fourth place in Chicago in 2013. Lemma says his confidence his high as goes into his third marathon of the year while Worku maintains his injury problems of the previous year are healed and he is again in top form. Micah Kogo admits that he needs to move to a higher level in the marathon: “I’ve had to learn a lot about how to run marathons. Frankfurt is a chance for me to achieve what I’m capable of in the marathon.”

It would be a major surprise if the women’s winner would not be an Ethiopian. Koren Jelela Yal, who is the fastest in the field with a personal best of 2:22:43, the Paris Marathon champion Meseret Mengistu Biru (2:23:26) and Ashete Bekere Dido (2:23:43), who was third in Frankfurt a year ago, head the women’s start list. Mengistu was straightforward when asked what she wants to achieve on Sunday: “I want to win and run fast!” Jelela gave birth in 2013 and came back to racing earlier this year. “I am well prepared for the Frankfurt Marathon,” she said. While a half marathon split time of 71:30 will bet he target for the women’s leading group, Yal thinks that it will still be possible to achieve a finishing time in the 2:21 region. Fellow-Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu established the course record of 2:21:01three years ago.

The race for the German Championships could be as close as the race for victory on Sunday. Two of the top contenders are Lisa Hahner and Mona Stockhecke. It is already two years ago that Lisa Hahner last finished a marathon. In 2013 she clocked her personal best of2:30:17 in Frankfurt. A series of injuries then stopped her progress. But now Lisa Hahner is optimistic for Sunday. “If all goes well I should be able to improve my PB significantly,” said the twin sister of Anna Hahner. It was a year ago when Mona Stockhecke improved to2:33:50 in Frankfurt. “I want to break my personal record again. May be Lisa and me can push each other to personal bests on Sunday,” she said.

More Information and online entry is available at: www.frankfurt-marathon.com 
Photo credit: www.photorun.net
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