The pre-race press conference of the 33rd edition of the ABN AMRO Marathon Rotterdam, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, saw some impressive times being touted around on Friday (12), not least by the Ethiopian favourite Getu Feleke.
Feleke, 26, believes that the course record of 2:04:27, set in 2009 when the race ended up in a photo finish between Kenya’s Duncan Kibet and James Kwambai, with the verdict going to the latter, could be under threat on Sunday.
“When we work together in the leading group it is possible to clock a time around 2:04 or faster on this flat course,” said Feleke, who had earlier this week told some members of the Dutch media he was even aiming for a time under 2:03, which would obviously imply a World record.
Feleke, at least, knows the course well after finishing second in Rotterdam in a personal best of 2:04:50, losing out by just two seconds to his compatriot Yemane Adhane Tsegay.
“I want to win now. I am in a very good shape,'' Feleke warned his likely main Kenyan rivals: Geoffrey Kipsang, Sammy Kitwara and Wilson Chebet.
Kipsang is also interested trying for a course record. The 20-year-old ran his first Marathon in Berlin last September and finished third with a time of 2:06:12. More recently, he ran a super-quick 58:54 at the RAK Half Marathon in February.
“I know this course as I was a pace maker here last year. My first Marathon in Berlin was a wonderful experience. I want to crack my Berlin time,” said the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships junior men’s winner.
Chebet course clever
For Chebet, the Rotterdam course holds no mysteries either.
He was the pace maker in 2009, helping Kibet to victory, and he then won in Rotterdam two years ago, clocking 2:05:27 which remains his personal best.
He has also won the Amsterdam Marathon in 2011 and 2012, on both occasions running under 2:06.
Kitwara, a training partner of Chebet who is also advised by the latter despite the fact that there is little more than a year’s age difference between the two runners, ran his first Marathon in Chicago last October and finished fourth in 2:05:54.
Although Berhanu Shiferaw Tolcha is missing, withdrawing two days ago due to a knee injury, Ethiopia has three other fine runners to stand alongside Feleke on the start line: Bazu Worku (best of 2:05:25), Tilahun Regassa (PB 2:05:27) and Assefa Bentayehu (2:06:22).
From a domestic point of view, both Koen Raymaekers and Michel Butter aim to break 2:10, a time which no European athlete has done this year so far.
If a Dutch victory in the men’s race seems rather unlikely, the chances are better in the women’s event.
The former European cross-country champion Hilda Kibet is the fastest woman in the race with a personal best of 2:24:27 but she will face a strong challenge from the Ethiopian pair of Misiker Mekonnen (who has a best of 2:25:21) and Harun Makda (2:26:46).
The weather forecast for Sunday should not be a hindrance to fast times with just light wind and temperature of 13-14 degrees Celsius at the start.
Wim van Hemert for the IAAF