The streak of 14 consecutive Kenyan victories at the DLL Marathon Eindhoven ended two years ago as Yemane Tsegay won in 2013 and compatriot Tilahun Regassa triumphed in 2014. But Stephen Chebogut gave Kenya back the crown with his surprise win on Sunday (11).
He was only the fifth-fastest in the field heading into the race, but a recent big PB of 1:00:19 over the half marathon distance showed Chebogut was in form to do something special.
In a close race, he threatened the course record with his winning time of 2:05:52, smashing his PB by more than two minutes and moving him to seventh on this year's world list.
The pace was fast from the outset. Helped by pace-makers, the lead group passed 5km in 14:36 and 10km in 29:29, putting them well inside course record pace.
The group of seven athletes – Chebogut, fellow Kenyans Mark Kiptoo, Edwin Kibet, Stephen Chemlany and Vincent Chepkok and Ethiopia’s Deriba Robi and Abayneh Ayele – maintained the fast pace through 15km (44:16). A half-way split of 1:02:23 suggested that a sub-2:05 finish time was still possible, though the pace was beginning to drop.
Chepkok was the first of the lead pack to struggle, dropping away soon after the 14th mile. Chemlany and Kibet followed a few kilometres later, leaving just four men out in front.
Chebogut, Robi, Kiptoo and Ayele passed 35km in 1:43:56, nearly 20 seconds ahead of their pursuers, but then Ayele began to struggle.
Robi, Chebogut and Kiptoo were still together at the 4km point, but Chebogut finally shook off his last two opponents in the final mile, forging ahead to win in 2:05:52.
The top five athletes all set PBs. Robi crossed the finish line in 2:05:58 with 39-year-old Kiptoo following just two seconds later. His time of 2:06:00 is the fastest marathon ever achieved by anyone above the age of 36. Ayele held on to clock 2:07:16 in fourth place while Kibet ran 2:08:17 in fifth.
“We cooperated really well,” said Chebogut, whose previous best of 2:08:01 was set earlier this year when finishing third in Hamburg. His only marathon victories prior to today was in Reims in 2010 and in Istanbul in 2012.
“Today showed that anything is possible,” he added. I am a champion now.”
The Eindhoven organisers rarely assemble a top women’s field, but the top female finisher was Belgium’s Els Rens in a PB of 2:38:16.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF