Matea Parlov Kostro: How she became a Croatian Sports Star

The German roads are much to Matea Parlov Kostro’s liking. Within little more than six months she has celebrated both the biggest success of her career to date and her greatest win. In August 2022 she won the silver medal at the European Championships in Munich which turned her at a stroke into a Croatian Sports Star. This was the first medal won by a Croatan woman in a running event in almost a century of the European Championships. Then in May this year she enjoyed her biggest victory so far. The athlete from Zagreb won the Hanover Marathon, breaking both the course record and her personal best with 2:25:45. This performance placed the 31-year-old firmly among the very best of the European marathon running elite. Now she will run Sunday’s Mainova Frankfurt Marathon. 

“I decided to run the Mainova Frankfurt Marathon because it’s a fast race with a high-quality field. I always feel good when I run in Germany, that was another factor in Frankfurt’s favour. Another reason was that I am so looking forward to the spectacular run to the finish line in the Festhalle,” explained Matea Parlov Kostro before Sunday’s Mainova Frankfurt Marathon. “My form is better than ever, the performances in training are better than before the European Championships. I have had a slight cold but feel good now.”

“I’m happy that I no longer have to worry about making the Olympic qualifying time, I’ve made sure of my ticket to Paris. But I want to run a personal best so, of course, there’s always some form of pressure to perform.”

2023 Frankfurt Marathon Frankfurt Main, Germany October 29, 2023 Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET #victahsailer

Her first sport wasn’t running but handball. “Then one day a sports teacher asked if I wanted to run a 600m race on the track for the school. It meant I didn’t have to go to school that day, so I did it, not that I was bad at my studies, on the contrary.” She finished third off no specific training and her talent was immediately evident. The Croatian’s career was off and running.

At first she ran middle distance but did not have enough speed over 800 and 1500m to make an impression internationally. Her performances over the longer distances were better, however. She ran 9:08.49 for a Croatian record over 3,000m. Road racing offered still more potential and she has concentrated on this more since 2018, making her marathon debut in Berlin in that year with 2:38:05. She had made great strides since then, literally. At the Valencia Marathon in 2020 she emerged from the lockdown of the Corona pandemic to break 2:30 for the first time, running 2:28:52. This ensured Olympic qualification. Competing in the 2021 Olympic, held in Sapporo, she achieved a highly creditable 21st place in extreme heat. She made big improvement on her shorter distance speed as well in 2022, running a personal best for 10km of 31:54 in Berlin, which stood her in good stead for her eventual silver medal in the marathon at the European Championships later that year. 

This race transformed her life. “Without a medal, you’re a nobody in Croatia, but when you win one, you’re a star overnight,” explained Matea Parlov Kostro. “I don’t earn much more money but am regularly invited to appear on TV programmes and people speak to me on the street and want to take a photo of me, especially after a training run when they’ve seen me.” What does she think of the stupendous women’s world record by the Ethiopian Tigst Assefa, running 2:11:53 in Berlin? “When I saw the time, I was shocked. I wouldn’t have thought it possible that a woman could run so fast. And she didn’t show any weakness during the race after 30 kilometres, it was astonishing.” The best Europeans have in the past consistently achieved high finishing places and even won medals at the Olympic Games. Asked if she dreamed of winning an Olympic medal in Paris, Matea Parlov Kostro replied: “Of course, an Olympic medal is the dream. But that’s not realistic, the African women are simply too strong.”

Philipp Kopp, Frankfurt’s success story

The best ever combined winners’ times for the 40th edition of the Mainova Frankfurt Marathon on Sunday marked a seamless continuation from the highest quality results for the elite runners in pre-Corona days. The achievements of the Kenyan Brimin Misoi with his time of 2:04:53 and Buzunesh Gudeta of Ethiopia running 2:19:27 when they crossed the finish line in Frankfurt’s Festhalle provided an aggregate time of 4:24:20, by a considerable margin the fastest in the history of Germany’s oldest city marathon. The next edition will be on October 27 next year.

Quite apart from the difficulties caused by the pandemic, it was anything but a matter of course that the elite results would turn out to be so impressive, given the unfavourable weather conditions. Spring of this year marked the death of the man who had led the development of the elite field to world-class standard over two decades: Christoph Kopp.

His son Philipp took over in the role of elite co-ordinator, working with Sandra Wolter, who had already had the role of Christoph Kopp’s “Right Hand” in Frankfurt since 2003.

2023 Frankfurt Marathon Frankfurt Main, Germany October 29, 2023 Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET #victahsailer

A few years ago that did not seem to be a straightforward matter. “At the time I really did ask myself, what are we going to do when one day Christoph is no longer available? We never really found a proper answer. I then joked saying to Christoph we will stop simultaneously,” reflected Frankfurt’s race director Jo Schindler. “So I’m delighted that, following the loss of Christoph, we’ve had a seamless and successful transition.” Together with Sandra Wolter, Philipp Kopp continue the work of their father’s company, International Sports Service (ISS) in Berlin.

Philipp Kopp grew up with the sport of athletics. Even at the age of two-and-a-half, he was a spectator at the 1995 Boston Marathon – and ran ahead through the passport check at the USA border control. “Philipp sat on my lap at the age of five,” remembered Jo Schindler.

He had been working for his father at the Mainova Frankfurt Marathon since 2007 and subsequently studied Sports Management. A key development was his trip to Kenya in 2019. “I went to Jean Paul Fourier in Iten and had many conversations with athletes. Patrick Makau also helped me a lot to gather contacts so that I began to manage leading Kenyan runners,” said Philipp Kopp, whose aim is to develop the professionalization of the business still further. Among his athletes are Kenya’s World Half Marathon bronze medallist Samwel Mailu, the Ethiopian World Cross Country silver medallist Tsigie Gebreselama, the European silver medallist in the women’s marathon, Matea Parlov Kostro of Croatia and the German record holder for the men’s marathon, Amanal Petros.

Apart from athlete management, working as elite field co-ordinators for a series of races is a core part of the business for Philipp Kopp and Sandra Wolter. On that front there is the prospect of a further addition to their portfolio in a new event planned for May next year: the Gutenberg Half Marathon will take place in Mainz on May 5 where Jo Schindler has taken over as race director.

Video: Mainova Frankfurt Marathon:

Defending champions Brimin Misoi and Buzunesh Gudeta take titles with fine times

Brimin Misoi and Buzunesh Gudeta were crowned champions of what proved to be the highest-quality race in the history of the Mainova Frankfurt Marathon.

At least in terms of combined winning times it was.

Misoi of Kenya retained the men’s title in the 40th-anniversary event, crossing the finish line in the Festhalle in 2:04:53, the second-fastest performance ever in the race’s history. He became the first man since compatriot Wilson Kipsang won two consecutive Mainova Frankfurt

Marathon titles, beginning in 2010. In windy and wet conditions, Buzunesh Gudeta achieved the second-fastest women’s time ever in the event with 2:19:27, missing the course record by 17 seconds. The combined winning times of the women’s and men’s champions came to 4:24:20, the fastest aggregate time ever in Frankfurt. The 40th-anniversary marathon had 13,258 participants from 115 countries.