Richard Ringer ran a typically well-paced race to finish sixth in the Haspa Hamburg Marathon on Sunday (23) in a lifetime best of 2:08:08.
Ringer was down in 22nd-place through the halfway point in a steady 64:05 but the European champion kept his pace, picked his way through the elite men’s field and was eventually rewarded with a sixth-place finish.
Ringer moved to second on the German all-time list for his efforts and more significantly, his time was two seconds inside the qualifying time for the marathon at the Olympic Games in Paris next summer.
“The race was going according to plan for me. I have to thank my pacemaker, who helped me achieve this result. In the end it felt a bit like at the European Championships,” said Ringer who ran near identical halfway splits of 64:05/64:03.
Among those Ringer picked off in the latter stages was a tiring Haftom Welday. Now eligible to compete for Germany, Welday, who lives in Hamburg, committed to the lead group and was comfortably ahead of German record pace - 2:06:27 by Amanal Petros in Valencia 2021 - through halfway in 62:33.
But Welday was to pay for his exuberance. He was passed by Ringer just before the 40 kilometre checkpoint and faded to eighth in 2:09:40. “Unfortunately I had stomach problems after just 15 kilometers. Nevertheless, I fought my way through. It was the toughest race of my life, I gave everything,” said Welday.
In the women’s race, Giovanna Epis was the leading European finisher in sixth in a lifetime best of 2:23:46 - two seconds shy of the Italian record set by Valeria Straneo in 2012.
“At the finish line, the first thought was of happiness. When you manage to improve, you can't be unhappy. Of course, the icing on the cake of the Italian record was missing, but the goal was to go fast and run inside 2:24 again. I think I achieved it, on a different route than in Valencia and at a different time of year,” said Epis as quoted by FIDAL.
Epis added that her upcoming goals for the summer include the European 10,000m Cup in Pacé on 3 June and the marathon at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in late August.
Two places behind Epis, Fabienne Königstein made a remarkable return to competition. Only nine months after giving birth to her first child, Königstein shaved almost seven months from her lifetime best with 2:25:48 which also secured the Olympic qualifying time for Tokyo 2020.
And what makes her performance even more impressive is that Königstein only made the decision to run the Hamburg Marathon on the week of the race.
On her marathon debut, France’s Mekdes Woldu also achieved the qualifying time for her home Olympics in Paris 2024 with 2:26:34 in ninth.
Kenyans swept both elite races. Veteran Bernard Koech won the men's race in a course record of 2:04:09 and Dorcas Tuitoek won a dramatic women's race, passing an exhausted Tiruye Mesfin from Ethiopia in the last 200 metres to win the women's race in 2:20:09.
Steven Mills for European Athletics