On Sunday, 13 April, the London and Rotterdam Marathons will once again take place on the same day as has often been the case since both marathons were inaugurated in 1981.
Over the years, Rotterdam has proved to be the faster of the two courses, as can be seen by comparing some recent race times: 1997: R: Domingos Castro (2:07:51) L: Antonio Pinto (2:07:55); 1998: R: Fabian Roncero (2:07:26) L: Abel Anton (2:07:56); 1999: R: Japhet Kosgei (2:07:09) L: Abdelkader El Mouaziz (2:07:57); 2000: L: Antonio Pinto (2:06:36) R: Kenneth Cheruiyot (2:08:22); 2001: R: Josephat Kiprono (2:06:50) L: Abdelkader el Mouaziz (2:07:11); 2002: L: Khalid Khannouchi (2:05:38) R: Simon Biwott (2:08:39).
A lot of similarities exist between the two cities. Both were bombed during World War II, both marathons were first held in the same year 1981 and on both courses world and European best performances have been run. Although Rotterdam does not hold these records any longer, the world’s biggest port was the first of the two to do so with Carlos Lopes, Belayneh Densamo and Tegla Loroupe.
Portugese Carlos Lopes ran an European best in 1983 with 2:08:37, two years later setting a world best with 2:07:12. Belayneh Densamo (Eth) bettered the time of Lopes in 1988 with 2:06:50. This world best stood for more than ten years. In 1998 Tegla Loroupe brought the women’s world best to Rotterdam with a time of 2:20:47.
Rotterdam is not expecting any world bests in the 23rd edition of the marathon but hopes on a fierce battle for victory. Technical director Jos Hermens has contracted a well matched men’s field with three runners with personal bests under 2:07:00.
The three are all Kenyans. Josephat Kiprono (pb 2:06:44) knows the flat and fast Rotterdam course well. In 2001 he ran the fastest time of the year here with 2:06:50, equalling the course record. Fred Kiprop and William Kiplagat ran their fastest times of resp. 2:06:47 and 2:06:50 also in the Netherlands finishing first and third in the Amsterdam marathon of 1999. Seven other starters have personal best times under 2:10:00: Fabian Roncero (ESP, 2:07:23), Stephen Cheptot (KEN, 2:07:59), Francesco Ingargiola (ITA, 2:08:49), Abdessalam Serrokh (MAR, 2:08:59), Mark Saina (KEN, 2:09:00), Tefere Wodajo (ETH, 2:09:51) and José Manuel Martinez (ESP, 2:09:55).
Fabian Roncero comes for the fourth time to Rotterdam. In 1998 the now 32 year old Spaniard looked to be on the way to bettering Densamo’s world record until around 40 kilometres he was plagued by cramps in his legs and had to stop two times. Nevertheless he won the race in 2:07:26, a national record. A year later he came back, this time losing to Japhet Kosgei of Kenya but improving his Spanish record by three seconds. Roncero had a very good winter season and is expecting a lot of his fourth start after the disappointing 2:10:08 (7th) he ran in 2001.
In the nice spring weather expected for Sunday (14-16 degrees C, sunny and a light wind) there will be a battle for the Dutch title between Kamiel Maase and five times champion Luc Krotwaar, both of whom have been training at high altitude in Kenya.
Maase ran his first marathon in 1999 at Rotterdam. He started then as a pacemaker but finished in 2:10:08 after that he ran only the Sydney Olympic marathon. Maase, who is a microbiologist by profession, has had an excellent build-up to Rotterdam. On 16 February he ran solo a European best time of 1.30.20 for 30 kilometres, became for the fifth time national cross country champion on 2 March at Harderwijk and tested his speed at The Hague on 29 March in a 10 kilometre race with 28:13. Between 5-27 March he trained in Kenya with Felix Limo and Luke Kaitany. The Kenyans will be the rabbits for Maase. Just like Maase, Krotwaar is also well prepared and eager to better the national record of 2:09:01 set by Moscow Olympic silver medallist Gerard Nijboer at Amsterdam in 1980.
The women’s field of Rotterdam lost this week two strong competitors as the Rotterdam organizers had to withdraw the invitations to the Chinese Ying-jie Sun (pb 2:21:21) and world junior best performer Jin Li (pb 2:25:48) due to fear of contamination with the Sars virus. “We were advised to do so by our national health organization,” race director Mario Kadiks said last Tuesday. Favorites for the women’s race are Yugoslavian Olivera Jevtic and Japanese Hiromi Ominami. Jevtic finished third in last year’s New York marathon in 2:26:44 but was disqualified for a minor doping infraction. Hiromi Ominami hopes to bring a second Rotterdam victory to her family. Her twin sister Takami won last year in 2:23:43.
The Rotterdam marathon starts at 12.00 hrs.