After 2:37:02 hours, defending champion Hendrik Pfeiffer crossed the finish line in 23rd place. “The title stays in the family,” he said. On Sunday morning he ran 42.195 meters ahead of his partner Esther Jacobitz through the busy streets of Cologne. He had barely let her go first on the home straight in the shadow of the cathedral and called on the spectators to applaud and cheer with sweeping arm movements when she was already German champion in 2:37:00 hours.
“That was the hardest run I have ever done,” groaned the marathon debutant after her debut on the long route, which earned her a five thousand euro bonus in addition to the title. The psychologist, who postponed her master’s degree to try out being a full-time runner, can put the money to good use.
Suffering of the last hour
Two training camps in Kenya, three months at the beginning of the year and five weeks in direct preparation for her run of the year, were her investments in a career that starts impressively with the title, but is unlikely to take her to the Olympic Games and World Championships. She revealed at the finish that she actually only ran the Cologne Marathon, or any marathon at all, because the title of German champion was up for grabs.
The suffering of the last hour of the run was written all over the former middle-distance runner’s face. Because she had a stomach ache, she couldn’t drink or eat energy bars in the second half of the race. In the next three or four weeks, she promised herself to console herself, she wouldn’t run a single step.
She is now looking for an outfitter and will first try to improve her times on the shorter distances. It is far from decided whether she will run her second marathon next year or the year after.
Her fiancé, Hendrik Pfeiffer, sacrificed the title of German champion with a light heart. In April last year he became German champion in Hanover in 2:10:59 hours, a time with which he would have won the race and title in Cologne.
But he gave his best a week ago, at the Berlin Marathon. On its flat and sweeping route, he improved his best time to 2:08:48 hours and thus secured his membership in the national squad.
Whether he, like Amanal Petros, who pushed the German record to 2:04:58 in Berlin, will make it to the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 depends on the performance of the best German runners, including European champion Richard Ringer, at the Valencia Marathon in December.
Completely normal starting numbers
Hendrik helped her so much in preparing for the marathon, as a companion and as a trainer, praised the new champion Jacobitz: “He always told me that even when you’re feeling bad, you can run well.”
For the men, the pacemakers don’t let anyone go first. Although rabbits are not allowed at German championships, the two Kenyans Amos Kipkorir and Anthony Apori registered for the 25th Cologne Marathon as normal and wore normal start numbers. But their task became clear at the latest when, after the start in Deutz, they took the lead of around five thousand runners; another 13,700 took part in the half marathon at the same time.
They stayed there until the end. Kipkorir, 27 years old, won his first marathon in 2:14:43 hours, 38 seconds ahead of Apori. He received a bonus of 1,500 euros. At kilometer thirty they decided to run to the finish, said Kipkorir. Favorite Jonathan Dahlke, also a debutant, was not up to the speed of the pacemakers. At kilometer 37 he suddenly stopped. He later said it exploded.
From a second group, 33-year-old Lorenz Baum ran from sixth to third place – and thus to the title. He improved his best time to 2:15:56 hours (from 2:16:33): “the greatest success of my career”. He describes himself as an ambitious hobby runner; after all, he only trains once a day, alongside his work as a planner for an energy supplier in Reutlingen. “The second guard ran here,” he commented: “There are six to eight faster runners in Germany. That’s how I know how to classify the title.”
“We have the fate of being a week away from Berlin,” says race director Markus Frisch: “If there is Olympic qualification, I can understand that the best athletes are running on the famously fast course and in the famously dense, fast field in Berlin . That is our lot.” This did not dampen the mood in the streets and alleys of the city.
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Baum will only be able to enjoy the title for six months. The 2024 championship will take place in Hanover in April, and local hero Pfeiffer is planning to take the title back.