Worries about the likely windy conditions are on almost everyone’s mind ahead of the 38th TCS Amsterdam Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, although Kenya’s Wilson Chebet is still determined to improve his course record on Sunday (20).
Chebet is the two-time defending champion in Amsterdam and has a personal best of 2:05:27 to his name. Now 28, he won this race in 2011 and in 2012, and was also second in 2010.
Last year, he set the current course record of 2:05:41 and he thinks he can beat that time this year despite concerns that there could be strong breezes and stormy conditions when the estimated 40,000 runners will be on the start line.
“I think I’m ready for a 2:04 Marathon. I’m in better shape than last year. My target time at halfway is 62:20, I wanted to come back, because people here really like me,” he said at the press conference at the iconic 1928 Olympic Stadium on Thursday, which will stage the start and the finish of the race.
In 2011, he ran his personal best in another famous Dutch race, the Rotterdam Marathon, but this April he wasn’t very lucky there and he didn’t finish.
“I still don’t know exactly what happened to me, but my body didn’t respond well to my training programme; now I’m feeling OK. I was already in the Netherlands in Tilburg for a race over 10 Miles in September in 46:26 (where he finished third),” he added.
Chebet will have a strong array of potential challengers around him, with nine athletes who have already run under 2:07 in their careers. There are also three very good debutants with bests under 1:01:30 at the Half Marathon.
Faster even than Chebet are Ethiopia’s Getu Feleke, who ran 2:04:50 last year in Rotterdam, and Kenya’s Bernard Koech, who clocked 2:04:53 on his this January in Dubai.
Just like Chebet, the 26-year-old Feleke seems to prosper when he runs in Dutch races. The former butcher – who was inspired to run by his brother – is in Amsterdam for the third time and he set a previous course record when winning in 2010 in 2:05:44.
“The course here is very nice and very fast,” said Feleke. “I came back to show my talent. I am aiming to set a personal record.”
Koech keen to impress after Moscow meltdown
Koech, now 25, made his debut over 26.2 miles when finished fifth in Dubai, the fourth fastest debut ever on a standard course, and he also impressed when winning the San Diego Half Marathon in 58:41, the fastest time of 2013 so far, although the course is slightly downhill.
He was selected for the IAAF World Championships but he didn’t finish the Marathon in Moscow.
“Unfortunately, I became ill in our training camp, but I know that at this moment my shape is not far from that of the other athletes here in Amsterdam. From what I’ve heard about the course, everything is possible. So we can run 2:05, 2:04 or even 2:03. I’m ready for it,” said Koech optimistically.
Three other strong Kenyans will also be in Amsterdam: Dickson Chumba and Franklin Chepkwony, who ran their personal bests of 2:05:48 and 2:06:11 when finishing first and second in the 2012 Eindhoven Marathon, and Gilbert Yegon, who has a best of 2:06:18.
In the women’s field, Kenya’s 20-year-old Valentine Kipketer has the fastest personal best with 2:24:33, set in the Mumbai Marathon in January this year.
Her compatriot Alice Timbilili was the winner in Amsterdam in 2010 in 2:25:03 and might be Kipketer’s strongest contender.
However, much is also expected from two debutants: Kenya’s 2004 Olympic Games 5000m silver medallist Isabella Ochichi has made an impressive return to the sport this year after a six-year hiatus and Ethiopia’s Gutemi Schone can boast of a Half Marathon best of 1:08:56.
The top Dutch runners present in Amsterdam include Koen Raymaekers (best of 2:10:35) and Hugo van den Broek (2:12:08), who will try to qualify for the Marathon at next year’s European Athletics Championships in Zürich. That is also the goal for Miranda Boonstra (2:27:32), who is on the comeback trail after missing the World Championships due to an injury.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF