Rain and wind did not prevent Haile Gebrselassie from breaking the course record of 42:42, set by his young compatriot Kenenisa Bekele six years ago at the Wincanton Montferland Run over 15km in the Dutch city of 's-Heerenberg.
Just before the 14km point, the multiple world record-holder broke away from his last opponent, Ali Mabrouk el Zaidi of Libya, to clock 42:36. For his efforts, El Zaidi was rewarded with a national record of 42:42, finishing second.
Deribe Alemu gave Ethiopia a second victory by winning the women's race in 48:50. She was more than a minute ahead of compatriot Amelework Fikadu who took second place in 50:16.
Although the weather forecast predicted rain and wind, one hour before the start it looked as though the weather conditions wouldn't be as bad as predicted. But half an hour before the gun sounded it started to rain and the winds became stronger.
More than 3000 runners were lucky that parts of the undulating course were sheltered by woods. But on the open parts of the loop course around 's-Heerenberg, where despite the weather many spectators were cheering the athletes, the wind and rain were a nuisance.
Right after the start, a leading group compprising Gebrselassie, the Kenyans Wilson Kipsang, Wesley Langat and the surprisingly strong el Zaidi was formed. The four passed the 5km point in 14:01 which was 13 seconds faster than the split time Bekele ran six years ago when he set the course record.
Gebrselassie and el Zaidi were setting the pace and and the two soon left the Kenyans behind. They passed the 10km marker in 28:22, still six seconds ahead of course record pace. At that point, Kipsang and Langat were already 22 and 24 seconds behind.
Approaching the final kilometre, the marathon world record-holder proved to be too fast for his last opponent. Cheered by thousands of spectators in the small streets of 's-Heerenberg, Gebrselassie clocked the so-wanted course record of 42:36, just twelve seconds shy of the 42:24 his compatriot Sileshi Sihine clocked two weeks ago in the Zevenheuvelenloop in nearby Nijmegen.
"It was cold and wet," said the always smiling Gebrselassie afterwards. "The rain was cold on the legs but I wanted to have the course record. This weather was not good for a very fast time. It was my first race after the world record in the marathon in Berlin at the end of September. After Berlin I took a week of rest and prepared for this race and the Dubai Marathon in January. I am happy with my time, especially in this weather which I really do not like."
The day before the race, Gebrselassie announced he will continue to compete until 2012. He also confirmed that he will run only the Dubai Marathon before the Beijing Olympic Games.
"Of course I will be back in the Netherlands for the Fanny Blankers-Koen games in Hengelo in May," he said.
Wim van Hemert for the IAAF
1 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 42:36
2 Ali Mabrouk el Zaidi (LBA) 42:42
3 Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 43:30
4 Wesley Langat (KEN) 43:55
5 Khalid el Boumlili (MAR) 44:23
1 Deribe Alemu (ETH) 48:50
2 Amelework Fikadu (ETH) 50:16
3 Peninah Arusei (KEN) 50:26
4 Paula Todoran (ROM) 52:07
5 Merel de Knegt (NED) 52:42