Tesfaye Abera wins the Dubai Marathon (© Giancarlo Colombo)
With 10 men finishing within 2:08, last year’s TCS Amsterdam Marathon produced the greatest ever depth in a European race. One of the aims for this year’s edition of the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (15) will be to match the quality of 12 months ago.
Eleven men in this year’s field already have sub-2:08 personal bests, while several other promising athletes will be making their marathon debut. And instead of focusing on record attempts by one or two athletes, the organisers try to ensure a large group remains at the front of the race until at least 30 kilometres.
Tesfaye Abera leads this year’s field. The 1.92m tall Ethiopian had a remarkable breakthrough at the 2016 Dubai Marathon, winning in 2:04:24. He followed it with a 2:06:58 victory at the Hamburg Marathon, but then dropped out of the marathon at the Olympic Games in Rio and finished 17th at this year’s London Marathon in 2:16:09.
“I had a lot of troubles with my stomach and with my hamstrings,” Abera said at a press conference in Amsterdam on Thursday. “But my preparation for this marathon has been good. Though I’m not yet in top shape, I think I can run 2:05.”
Seoul Marathon champion Amos Kipruto of Kenya will be one of Abera’s main competitors.
“I’m grateful the organisers here in Amsterdam invited me again, as last year I was struggling and I messed up the last part of my race,” said Kipruto, who clocked a PB of 2:05:54 when winning in the Korean capital in March. “This year I really want to improve my personal best on this nice course because I really like it here in friendly Amsterdam.”
Mule Wasihun has also travelled to Amsterdam in the hopes of setting a lifetime best. Last year he finished ninth in 2:07:19, having set a PB of 2:05:44 in Dubai earlier in 2016.
The Amsterdam Marathon wouldn’t be the Amsterdam Marathon without the participation of Wilson Chebet. The Kenyan set a course record of 2:05:36 in 2013 when he won the race for the third time. Sunday’s race will be his seventh appearance at the Amsterdam marathon and he will be aiming to improve on his 2:08:19 12th-place finish from last year.
Distance-running fans will keenly track the progress of two marathon debutants in this year’s race.
At the age of 27, and having lived and trained in Kenya and Ethiopia for much of the past 10 years, New Zealand’s Zane Robertson will run his first full marathon. He already owns the national half marathon record of 59:47 and this weekend he will have one eye on Rod Dixon’s national record of 2:08:59, set at the 1983 New York Marathon.
“I know there is a lot of pressure on me, but I see this as a good learning experience in the first place,” said Robertson, who recently finished fourth at the Great North Run in 1:01:42. “The only disappointment will be if there is a DNF next to my name on Sunday.”
Edwin Kiptoo is a two time winner of the Dam tot Damloop, the 10-mile race between Amsterdam and Zaandam. Last year he ran the first 33 kilometres of the Amsterdam Marathon as a pacemaker as part of his preparation for his step up to the full distance.
“If the top of the field will run at 2:05 pace again, I will be there with them,” he said confidently at the pre-race press conference.
That’s also the intention of the race organisers. The conditions are expected to be good and the pacemakers will try to reach the half-way point in 1:02:30 to 1:02:45.
Sunday’s race also doubles as the Dutch marathon championships, for which Abdi Nageeye is the clear favourite. He finished 11th in the marathon at last year’s Olympic Games and set a personal best of 2:09:34 in April this year in Rotterdam.
“I hope that I will come a bit closer to Kamiel Maase’s national record of 2:08:21,” said Nageeye, who has been training with Patrick Sang’s group in Kenya. “I don’t think I will break this record this time, but I want to improve step by step.”
Bekele faces marathon newcomers Chesir and Kibiwot
With the likes of Tadelech Bekele and Gladys Chesir set to compete on Sunday, the women’s course record of 2:21:09, set in 2012 by Meseret Hailu, could be challenged.
“I’ve never been so well prepared,” Bekele said at the press conference. She ran her personal best of 2:22:23 earlier this year in Prague, but also ran a 2:22 marathon in 2015 in Dubai. “This time I really want to improve my personal best again.”
Gladys Chesir, who finished sixth at last year’s World Half Marathon Championships in 1:08:46, will be making her marathon debut in Amsterdam. Having been discovered by esteemed coach Colm O’Connell, Chesir won the Youth Olympic 3000m title in 2010 and has since gone on to set PBs of 30:41 for 10km and 1:06:57 for the half marathon.
Former track specialist Viola Kibiwot could also be one to watch. The 33-year-old Kenyan finished fourth over 5000m at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships and boasts PBs of 3:59.25 for 1500m, 8:24.41 for 3000m and 14:29.50 for 5000m. This year she has shifted her focus to the roads and clocked 2:30:33 on her marathon debut in Hamburg earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Caroline Rotich will be hoping to recapture her best form. After winning the 2015 Boston Marathon, she finished 10th in New York City later that year and has not completed a marathon since then. A recent half-marathon clocking of 1:09:41 in Philadelphia will have boosted her confidence ahead of her Amsterdam debut.
A record number of 15.000 runners from 127 countries will start at the full marathon on Sunday. Almost 30.000 will run on shorter distances and in the Kids Runs.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF