As one of the fastest women in the field, Joyce Chepkirui’s victory at the Dam tot Damloop was not unexpected. But Nguse Amlosom was a surprising winner of the men’s race at the 29th edition of the IAAF Silver Label Road Race held over 10 miles between the city squares of Amsterdam and Zaandam on Sunday (22).
All eyes were on Leonard Komon, winner of this race for the past two years. In 2011 the Kenyan came within three seconds of Haile Gebrselassie’s World best time with 44:27 in poor conditions.
This time, the athletes had almost perfect weather when they started in Amsterdam. The grey clouds disappeared just in time and a nice autumn sun brought the temperature up to 17°C.
But in a race where women set out ahead of the men, Chepkirui was the first athlete to cross the line in one of the closest ever finishes at this event.
A small group of 15 women started six minutes and four seconds before the elite men; the difference between Komon’s 44:27 course record and Ingrid Kristiansen’s 50:31 course record.
At 5km, reached in 15:48, the leading group was reduced to four: Kenyan pair Filomena Chepchirchir and Chepkirui, and sisters Hilda and Sylvia Kibet. Hilda, who is in preparation for the Frankfurt Marathon, couldn’t keep up with the pace.
Last year Komon was disappointed with the pace of the leading group, so today he set out fast and covered the first 2.5km in 6:22. But with no pacemakers in the field and with six other runners in his shadow, the 25-year old had to do a lot of the work by himself. Nevertheless, after covering the first 5km in 13:41, the record was still a possibility.
As the women entered the city centre of Zaandam, they had passed through 10km in 31:49 but Sylvia, the second Kibet sister, had to surrender her chances of victory. Meanwhile Chepchirchir and Chepkirui were working well together in an attempt to stay ahead of the men.
After 8km, Komon’s Kenyan team-mate Peter Kirui took the lead in the men’s race and brought the leading group through 10km in 27:55. At that point Komon was in trouble and was already trailing the lead pack by a few metres.
Within a few seconds Komon was back in the lead, but instead of chasing the course record, the focus shifted to simply fighting for the victory. The five runners left in contention were looking at one another more than they were looking at the clock, and for a second time Komon had to slow down and fell back as the leaders passed 15km in 42:31.
The tall and strong Kirui, known for being the pacemaker of Patrick Makau when he broke the Marathon World record in Berlin in 2011, dominated a quartet with Abera Kuma from Ethiopia, John Mwangangi, and Nguse Amlosom of Eritrea. With the finish line in sight, they set out in trying to catch the leading women.
But after a furious sprint in the last 100m down the narrow streets of the old town of Zaandam, Chepkirui crossed the finish line first, just a stride ahead of Chepchirchir as both were given the same time of 51:33.
Amlosom was just one second behind Chepkirui as he won the men’s race in 45:28. Just three seconds separated the top four finishers in the men’s race as Mwangangi, winner of this race in 2010, finished second in 45:30, one second ahead of Kirui and Kuma.
Sylvia and Hilda Kibet were third and fourth in the women’s race in 52:06 and 52:51 respectively. Komon lost 64 seconds in the last kilometre, finishing fifth in 46:32. Tom Wiggers was the fastest Dutch runner in the men’s race, finishing 14th in 48:06.
“I was confident that I could win this race and I’m very happy that I have beaten such strong runners as Komon and Kirui,” said Amlosom, who finished eighth in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships. The 26-year-old will now prepare for the Delhi Half Marathon on 15 December.
“This was a very tough race and I thank God that I was able to win,” said Chepkirui, who has a 10km PB of 30:38 and a Half-marathon best of 67:03.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF