The Vienna City Marathon produced two breaking news of completely different content on Sunday and none of them was about records.
The race became the first major marathon worldwide with a strong international elite field and a mass race since the start of the Corona pandemic and then ended with a disqualification of the runner who crossed the line first. Ethiopia’s Derara Hurisa wore shoes which are not compliant with the rules.
While it is the first time that such a disqualification happened in a major marathon Kenyan Leonard Langat became the winner with a time of 2:09:25.
A debutant was the surprise winner of the women’s race: Kenyan Vibian Chepkirui ran 2:24:29. On a day when temperatures reached around 25 Celsius during the final part of the race hopes of records faded during the second half of the marathon.
Mass start racing in a big city
In total organisers registered around 26,000 entries from 126 nations for the various events. 6,000 of them were marathon runners. Some of the events were already staged on Saturday.
In a 10k race Julia Mayer smashed the national record with a time of 32:54, becoming the first Austrian woman to break 33:00 minutes. Andreas Vojta took the men’s race. The Austrian improved his personal best to 29:03. The Vienna City Marathon is a Label Road Race of the international athletics federation World Athletics.
Heartbreak for Hurisa
Less than 45 minutes after breaking the finishing tape in the heart of Vienna in 2:09:22 Derara Hurisa looked completely distraught, sitting on the pavement in the finishing area between Vienna’s Burgtheater and the impressive town hall. He had just learnt that he was disqualified because the soles of his shoes were one centimeter thicker than allowed.
The soles of road running shoes have to be no thicker than four centimeters. Hurisa was running with a model that has a sole thickness of five centimeters. He is said to have chosen the shoes for the race because he used them in training and thought they were within the rules.
Organizers explained that every runner or their manager had to fill in a form in which they have to name the model of the shoe they were going to wear. On Hurisa’s form a shoe was named that is within the rules. For some reasons on race day he wore a different one. „We also stressed in the technical meeting the rules about the shoes.
“Unfortunately we had no other choice than disqualifying the athlete,“ said Hannes Langer, who is one of the elite race coordinators of the Vienna City Marathon. “It is the first time something like this has happened. And I am pretty sure that from now on there will be some form of checks to avoid something like this to happen again in a major race.“
Winning in second place
“Of course I would have preferred to have broken the tape,“ said Leonard Langat, who became the winner and clocked sub 2:10 for the first time. “I had no clue about the disqualification until they told me. It was of course my aim to win and I thank god that in the end I did. It was a good race, but the heat was a problem.“
While the leading group had passed the half marathon in 63:41 the 30 k split of 1:30:33 still pointed towards a finishing time of around 2:07:30. However when the last pacemaker dropped out at 30 k the race became much slower and tactical.
Once Japan’s Kento Kukutani, who came from behind, had reached the leading group with Kenyans Leonard Langat and Samwel Kiptoo plus Ethiopians Betesfa Getahun and Derara Hurisa the pace was increased again.
Kukutani and Kiptoo were quickly dropped while the other three battled for victory. Hurisa had the best sprint, but with illegal shoes. So it was Leonard Lagat who became Vienna’s champion.
Women’s race had course record potential
The women’s leaders were running well inside the course record of 2:22:12 for long parts of the race. Vibian Chepkirui and the Ethiopians Meseret Dinke and Gelete Burka passed the half way mark in 70:47. Burka had recovered from a fall earlier in the race when she stumbled at a zebra crossing where a section was slightly elevated.
However neither Burka nor Dinke was able to hold on to Chepkirui. At the 30 k mark the Kenyan’s split time was 1:40:37 and she was already 33 seconds ahead of Dinke with Burka another 20 seconds back.
Although Vibian Chepkirui slowed in the final section her victory was never in doubt as the gaps behind her grew. „Without the heat I would have run at least two minutes faster,“ said the 27 year-old. She finished with 2:24:29 and was well ahead of the Ethiopians Meseret Dinke and Gelete Burka who clocked 2:25:31 and 2:25:38 respectively.
Little over a month after a superb 12th place finish in the Olympic marathon Fabienne Schlumpf of Switzerland was fourth in 2:26:31.