The global athletics fraternity is struggling to get out of the coronavirus web. Whereas vaccination has become the song across the world, event organisers are still struggling to put races up amid restrictions.
As a result, several elite marathoners have been deprived of activity. Most of them have gone a year or more without races yet, the Tokyo Olympics are closing in within four months. Top Dutch athletics management body Global Sports Communication (GSC) has opted to take up the duty to stage the NN Mission Marathon in Hamburg, Germany on April 11.
GSC’s top runners including 2016 Olympic champions Eliud Kipchoge have been lined-up for the 42km race on a 10.5km-looped city course. And so is Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich.
The 2012 Olympic marathon champion Kiprotich in company of compatriots Filex Chemonges and Geoffrey Kusuro will face 36-year-old Kipchoge, arguably the greatest marathoner ever with 11 wins out 13 marathons.
“Last week the federation (Uganda Athletics Federation) informed us that anyone wanting to qualify for the Olympic marathon should run before April 15 to be considered,” said Kiprotich’s manager Jurrie van der Velden.
“So we don’t have much choice unfortunately, especially now due to lack of races,” added GSC’s Jurrie.
This is the first time Kiprotich and Kipchoge will be facing off since the latter smartly stripped Ugandan of the Olympic title in rainy conditions of Sambódromo, Brazil five years ago.
More importantly, Kiprotich who hasn’t run a full marathon since finishing 18th in 2:15:04 at the Doha
World Championships on October 5, 2019, is under pressure to make the desired grade to Tokyo. He is among the eight male Ugandan marathoners who have already beaten the 2:11:30 standard for the only three available quota places to the quadrennial Games.
But the 2013 World champion ranks fourth on the list with his best time 2:08:31 set when he finished third at the 2019 Hamburg Marathon.
Chemonges leads that septet with the best time of 2:05:12, a national record, set when he finished third at the Toronto Marathon in Canada on October 20, 2019.
The marathon qualifying window began from January 1, 2019 to April 5, 2020 and after postponement due to Covid-19, it opened again from December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.
Kiprotich has run in Hamburg thrice, also finishing second in 2017 and fifth in 2018. This could be the 32-year-old’s most important trip to the German city. The Hamburg event has been organised by GSC, its elite long-distance running arm - the NN Running Team - and the Hamburg Marathon. It has a tagline ‘The fastest way to Tokyo’ and it will have a field of 100 invited elite athletes.
“In these challenging times and with the road race calendar for the first half of 2021 decimated by the pandemic, the involved parties are keen to arrange the race to provide a much-needed competitive opportunity for the athletes,” read part of a statement by NN Running.
RACE TO OLYMPICS
BEST TIMES - UGANDANS
Oct 20, 2019: Filex Chemonges - Toronto Marathon (3rd, 2:05:12)
Apr 7, 2019: Fred Musobo - Daegu Marathon (2nd, 2:06:56)
Apr 7, 2019: Solomon Mutai - Vienna Marathon (3rd, 2:08:25)
Apr 28, 2019: S.Kiprotich - Hamburg Marathon (3rd, 2:08:31)
Jan 19, 2020: Jackson Kiprop - Mumbai Marathon (4th, 2:08:41)
Oct 27, 2019: Robert Chemonges - Rennes Marathon (1st, 2:09:03)
Apr 14, 2019: Alex Chesakit - Dakar Marathon (3rd, 2:16:05)
Nov 22, 2020: Phillip Kiplimo - Dodoma Marathon (1st, 2:17:26)
NN MISSION MARATHON
Date: April 11
Venue: Hamburg, Germany
Course: Looped 10.5-km city centre course
Star Name: Eliud Kipchoge
Ugandans To Run: Filex Chemonges, Stephen Kiprotich and Geoffrey Kusuro