Edwin Kiptoo is eager to defend his title at the “Dam tot Damloop”, an IAAF silver label road race in the Netherlands, on Sunday (18).
The Damloop is a 10 mile point-to-point race, from the heart of Amsterdam to the city center of Zaandam over a course which includes passing through the long tunnel under the IJ River.
Traditionally the elite women start six minutes before the elite men, the rounded-up difference in the course records between the genders. That sometimes sets up a hotly-contested battle between the men’s and women’s leaders in the waning stages, one Kiptoo is keenly looking forward to.
“Last year I didn’t expect to win here,” Kiptoo said. “This year I’m better prepared and I really want to defend my title. Not only in the men’s race, but I will hunt for the women again like I did in 2015.”
Last year Kiptoo took control of the pace from the start and was running all alone after just two kilometres, chasing the women’s pack. In the final kilometre he overhauled Joyce Chepkirui to win with a personal best of 45:19.
Kiptoo, 23, twice dipped under the one-hour mark in the half marathon, his 59:26 in New Delhi a personal best. In March he was ninth at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff clocking 1:01:21.
“I will stick to the half marathon for the time being,” he said. “I don’t have plans for a full marathon yet.” He will however return to the Dutch capital in October to serve as a pacesetter in the Amsterdam Marathon.
Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda is expected to be Kiptoo’s primary opponent. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the 20-year-old finished an admirable sixth in the 10,000m, running a personal best of 27:10.17. He was also eighth in the 5000m final in 13:09.17. He produced his personal best of 13:00.60 when finishing second at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, in a season that witnessed his rise as the most promising athlete from Uganda at the moment.
Abdi Nageeye is the Dutch favourite this year, although he may not be fully recovered from the Olympic marathon. He finished 11th in 2:13:01 but has a 2:10:24 personal best set in Amsterdam last year.
“My performance (in Rio) was a little bit less than I had hoped for,” Nageeye said, “but it is also good motivation for the years to come.”
Aprot up to the challenge
But these men will also face a strong contender from the women’s field, the favourite Alice Aprot.
The 22-year-old Kenyan made a strong impression in Rio, where she finished fourth in the 10,000m with a personal best of 29:53.51 after leading the field through the first half of the race in just under 14:47. It was a pace that helped bring Almaz Ayana to her world record.
“I just like to lead a race at a fast pace,” Aprot said, reflecting on her performance at the Olympics. She made it clear that she’s still in strong shape after a solid 14:39.56 performance in the Van Damme Memorial 5000m last weekend at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels, finishing seventh.
But Aprot is also a force in cross country where she’s also achieved some success. This year she won the African title in Yaoundé and races in St. Giorgio su Legnano, Nairobi and Antrim.
“When I run on the track, I put my mind on the track. And I do the same on the roads and in cross country,” she said. “In all disciplines I just like to push and to run in front.”
And that’s what she’ll want to do in the Damloop on Sunday. With a personal best of 31:02 over 10 kilometres on the road it will be interesting to see what Aprot can do over longer distances.
Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu is expected to be her strongest contender. At 30 and with five years of experience in the marathon, she’ll be making her debut over the 10 mile distance.
The elite fields will lead 45,000 runners registered for the Damloop’s 32nd edition. On Saturday night another 13,000 runners will race over half the distance. Combined, the weekend makes the Dam tot Damloop the largest road race in the Netherlands.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF