Eliud Kipchoge was an impressive winner of the 2014 ABN AMRO Rotterdam Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in 2:05:00 but the windy conditions and poor pacemaking didn’t bring him the personal best he was looking for on Sunday (13).
The 29-year-old Kenyan, running his third marathon, was second in Berlin last September in an impressive 2.04.05 and was also hunting for the course record of 2:04:27, set in 2009 jointly by Duncan Kibet and James Kwambai, but it any chances of either mark being beaten disappeared early in the race.
At 10km, in 29.35, the pace was already a bit slower than expected and one of the three designated pacemakers had dropped out. After 15km, passed in 44.27, another fell by the wayside.
The halfway time of 1.02.40 was 40 seconds slower than the organisers had in mind, but the leading group still only consisted of four runners: the Kenyan trio of Kipchoge, Bernard Koech, Bernard Kipyego and Ethiopia’s Deriba Robi as well as the one remaining pacemaker John Mwangangi.
Kipchoge, the fastest man in the field, then took responsibility for maintaining the pace and ran shoulder-to-shoulder with Mwangangi until the latter dropped out at 35km.
Robi was the first one who couldn’t keep up with Kipchoge, whose 5km split between 30-35km was 14:33 and the fastest of the race. By 35km, his training partners Koech and Kipyego were also starting to be left behind as they were unable to stay with the increase in pace.
Kipchoge, helped by Mwangangi, reached 35km in 1.43.29. In the last seven kilometres, Kipchoge was on his own but he maintained his rhythm all the way to the line to prove he is one of the most consistent marathon runners on the international scene at the moment.
“If we had run a faster first half of this marathon, the results would have been better. I lost a bit too much energy in picking up the right pace. But I enjoyed the course, and the many spectators, and I really feel happy here,” commented Kipchoge.
"I’m very happy with my victory and I will come back for the course record," he added, to the race organisers' delight.
Koech finished second in 2.06.08 with Kipyego, who had a torrid time in the last three kilometres, third in 2.07.58 and only just holding off Robi who was four seconds further back in fourth..
In the women's race, Ethiopian favourite Abebech Afework had problems with a drinking bottle that fell to the ground in the early stages of the race.
She had to stop to pick it up, lost contact with the leading group, and was almost two minutes behind the leaders at 30km.
However, slowly she got back in touch with the women in front of her and just under two kilometres from home she passed her compatriot Guteni Shone, who had been leading the field for most of the race.
Afework quickly put a lot of distance between herself and her flagging countrywoman before crossing the line in 2.27.50.
Shone was second in 2.30.23 while Namibia’s Beata Naigambo was third in 2.31.00.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF