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.

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