Henry Chirchir wins sprint finish,
Souad Ait Salem takes women's race in windy Hannover
Henry Chirchir won a thrilling sprint finish at the TUI Marathon Hannover in 2:11:30. The Kenyan celebrated his first marathon victory in windy conditions just a stride ahead of 40 year-old Francis Bowen who was given the same time. Evans Ruto, the winner of the Hannover Marathon in 2009, completed a Kenyan sweep in 2:11:34. A group of nine runners reached halfway in 64:32 but due to the rising wind the pace dropped in the second half. Souad Ait Salem took the women's title in 2:33:09. The Algerian led throughout the race and established a comfortable lead of more than two minutes at 25 kilometres. Nadeshda Leonteva of Russia and Bornes Kitur of Kenya closed the gap in the final stages but could not reach the winner. Leonteva finished second in 2:33:32, Kitur clocked a personal best of 2:33:50 for third place in her first marathon outside of Kenya. A record number of more than 18,418 runners entered the various events of the TUI Marathon Hannover, which is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
The men's race started a bit slower than planned. A group of nine runners passed halfway in 64:32 minutes compared to the target of 64:00. Up until 25 k they were heading towards a finishing time of but higher winds and temperatures slowed the runners. The course record of 2:08:32, set by South African Lusapho April in 2013, became out of reach. The race turned into a more tactical affair but reached a dramatic climax at the end. At 40 kilometres there were still five runners in the lead. It was the oldest of the group, 40 year-old Francis Bowen, who attacked in the final two kilometres. Soon Ethiopian Mekuant Ayenew fell back and eventually finished fifth in 2:11:46. Kenyans Martin Kosgey and Evans Ruto fought hard for a place on the podium. Finally it was Ruto who took third in 2:11:34 with a three second advantage.
Sprinting for victory Henry Chirchir just edged out Francis Bowen, both crossing the finish line in front of the city hall in 2:11:30. „I never experienced a finish as close as this. I was always confident that I would win. My preparation in a strong group gave me strength and I knew that I have a good sprint finish", said Chirchir. The 28 year-old has a personal best of 2:09:24 set in Cologne 2012. In his fourth marathon race he celebrated his first victory.
In the women's race Souad Ait Salem won in 2:33:09. The Algerian record holder was happy with the victory but not satisfied with her time. A half marathon split time of 73:23 minutes suggested a much faster result. At that stage it seemed well possible for Salem to break the course record set by Olena Burkovska. The Ukrainian clocked 2:27:07 a year ago. "But after 30 kilometres I got problems with my right foot. Then I focused on finishing and winning the race, which thankfully I managed", said Salem. German marathon hope Lisa Hahner who has a personal best of 2:30:17 was forced to drop out after 12 kilometres. Problems with the plantar fascia in her right foot made stopped her in Hannover.
More information about the TUI Marathon Hannover is available online at: www.marathon-hannover.de