Bernard Kipyego wins the Amsterdam Marathon (© AFP / Getty Images)
The focus will be on course records for both the men’s and women’s races at the 41st edition of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (16).
But in the men’s race, it’ll also be a battle for the very unofficial title of “Mr. Amsterdam” between multiple winners Wilson Chebet and Bernard Kipyego.
Kipyego won the last two editions, succeeding Chebet, the winner in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Chebet also lowered the course record to 2:05:36 in his last victory, five seconds faster than his winning time the year before. Since then he’s been known in Dutch running circles as “Mr. Amsterdam”.
For Kipyego, Sunday’s race will mark his first step towards his next major goal: selection to the Kenyan squad for the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
“In Amsterdam I will try to set a first step for the (London 2017) championship,” Kipyego said, trying to put the disappointment of not making the Rio 2016 squad behind him.
Last year he set a 2:06:19 personal best in the Dutch capital. In February he was second in Tokyo in 2:07:33.
“Now I am ready for the course record here,” the 30-year-old said.
And yes, he added with a smile, he confirmed his ambitions to become the next “Mr. Amsterdam”.
Chebet meanwhile will be on the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium start line for the sixth year in a row. He hasn’t been at his fastest the past two years, running 2:08:48 in Boston in 2014 to finish second and 2:08:45 in Amsterdam last year.
But the 31-year-old Kenyan may be on an upswing in 2016, with 28:37 and 1:01:35 season’s bests to his credit over 10km and the half marathon from Spring races in New York.
One of the pair’s main rivals will be Sammy Kitwara who’ll be making his Amsterdam debut. He was sixth in Boston this year in 2:16:43 and second in Chicago one year ago where he clocked 2:09:50.
But the 29-year-old opted for a fast, paced contest this autumn in order to target his 2:04:28 personal best set in Chicago in 2014.
“My preparations were okay,” he said. “I did a lot of speedwork in the last couple of weeks and I’m ready for a good race on Sunday.”
Mule Wasihun and Abere Kuma, also Amsterdam debutantes, form the key Ethiopian opposition for the Kenyan trio. Wasihun has an impressive 2:05:44 lifetime best, set in January’s Dubai Marathon.
‘This year I think I became a real top athlete,” said the 22-year-old, who finished eighth at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in March. “I take my training more seriously. In Dubai I still wasn’t sure about my possibilities. Now I think I can run a better marathon.”
Kuma might be new in Amsterdam, but he’s already known to Dutch athletics fans for his 2015 victory at the Rotterdam Marathon where he clocked 2:06:47. He produced his personal best of 2:05:56 in Berlin in 2014, and will be looking to bounce back from his subpar 2:22:17 run in April’s London Marathon. Of that he’s confident. “The last couple of weeks my training was very good,” he said.
Hailu to defend course record turf
In the women’s race a three-way battle is expected between Kenyan Priscah Jeptoo and Ethiopians Meselech Melkamu and Meseret Hailu.
Jeptoo has a 2:20:15 personal best from the 2012 London Marathon but in 2014 struggled with injuries, including a broken leg.
“I had a difficult time in the last couple of years, but the last four months I have been training very well,” Jeptoo said. “I left the problems behind and I hope to come close to my personal best."
That could mean a course record, which currently stands at 2:21:09, set in 2012 by Hailu, one of the women that will line up against Jeptoo. More recently, the 26-year-old clocked 2:26:26 for second in Hamburg this year and 2:24:33 in Berlin a year ago.
Melkamu is also a legitimate threat. The 31-year-old beat Hailu in Hamburg this year in 2:21:54, not far from her 2:21:01 lifetime best set in 2012 when she won in Frankfurt.
This year’s race also serves as the Dutch championship over the distance. Khalid Choukoud, who ran 2:10:52 in Rotterdam in 2014, is the favourite in the men’s race. Ruth van der Meijden, with a lifetime best of 2:35:15, is the favourite in the women’s.
The weather forecast is nearly ideal with a start time temperature of 9 C expected, with light winds and 60 percent humidity.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF