German marathon ace Lisa Hahner targets record in Cape Town race
“GO LISA” – shouted Lisa Hahner’s supporters, as the well-known German athlete passed by towards the end of the race in her attempt to run faster than 2 hours 30 minutes at the 2015 Frankfurt City Marathon.
Somehow the loud support gave new energy to the slightly-built 25-year-old distance athlete, who lifted herself out of the inevitable marathon fatigue and accelerated away in the final kilometres to record a personal best time of 2:28:39.
Two years later, Hahner will line up in Sunday’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon as a strong podium contender, with every chance of winning Africa’s first gold label marathon title. And if conditions allow, expect Hahner to dip under Isabella Ochichi’s 2015 race record of 2:30:20.
It all started 10 years ago when the teenage Hahner and her twin, Anna, fell under the spell of musician, Joey Kelly of Kelly Family fame. “I love his music, but it was his words which inspired me,” Hahner admitted yesterday from her base at the Stellenbosch Academy for Sport. “He was already involved in running ultra-marathons and Iron Man competitions and he said how running had given him purpose and kept him from going off the rails.
“He said ‘if you want to change something (in) your life, start now’. And that touched something deep inside and started our running careers. Funnily enough now he says he is our biggest fan!”
After completing their university studies in Mainz, near Frankfurt, Lisa majoring in French and Maths, the sisters now live in the south-east near the Black Forest which offers almost all they need to reach their potential in their chosen sport.
However, ever looking for ways to further improve, the adventurous twins looked to Africa and have spent time in recent years running with both Kenyans and Ethiopians in high-altitude training camps. “I’ve been to Ethiopia once and Kenya on four occasions,” Hahner said.
“I went partly to gain the benefits of altitude training, but mainly to experience first-hand running in Africa with African runners – the best in the world. We trained in Iten – the famous town which has produced so many champions. On arriving we saw a big sign which read ‘Iten – the home of Champions’. What an inspiration!
“When you go on a training run, there are immediately several barefoot youngsters who come along with you – aspiring to become what many from Iten have already achieved. I love the African way of thinking – ‘ If you can dream it, it can become reality’.
Hahner will feel that she has unfinished business with Olympic marathons, after, in Rio, her hand-in-hand finish with her twin was misconstrued as failure to give their all. “We both had below-par races,” admitted Hahner. “But Anna only caught me in the final kilometre. It was a spontaneous decision to hold hands across the line, signalling our determination to finish the Olympic marathon, where we may well have quit the race earlier in other circumstances.”
TOP-CLASS: Lisa Hahner, right, draws inspiration from Elana Meyer – at the Stellenbosch Academy.