Abera Kuma winning at the 2015 Rotterdam Marathon (Erik van Leeuwen) © Copyright
Preview Rotterdam, Netherlands

Recent marathon winners line up in Rotterdam

Eight athletes who recently won a race over the classic distance will be on the start line for the 37th edition of the NN Rotterdam Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (9).

“We wanted to gather a field of winners,” said race director Marc Corstjens at the press conference on Friday. “That’s why we invited athletes who will be able to run a time of 2.06 or faster, but who also have proven that they can finish a race strongly.”

Corstjens also made sure that all of the invited runners all set their personal best in the past two or three years and look set to improve on their times. And, in the case of the men, they all have run a half marathon within 60 minutes.

As ever, they will have to obey the ‘Rotterdam law’ by going with the pace for the first 30 or even 35 kilometres. Rotterdam might not be a marathon for runners who are chasing a world record, but it is an excellent opportunity for others to climb the world lists with PBs of 2:05 or maybe even 2:04.

Kenya’s Marius Kimutai heads the field with his PB of 2:05:47, which he set in October last year in Amsterdam. He finished third there, but has won marathons in Brescia, Danzhou, Dalian and Rennes. “In Amsterdam we had almost perfect conditions,” Kimutai said. “I can only hope that it will be the same here in Rotterdam.”

With expected temperatures of 12-15C and not too much wind, the weather forecast promises good conditions.

Laban Korir will be trying to take advantage of his preparations with his teammate and Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge. “Everybody knows that Eliud will try to run below two hours in May, so he is training very hard and so am I,” said the 2014 Toronto Marathon winner. His PB of 2:05:54 was set at the Amsterdam Marathon that same year.

For 2015 Rotterdam winner Abera Kuma, this weekend’s race will be a chance for redemption after the bad luck he suffered in his most recent marathon. The Ethiopian fell at the start of the Dubai Marathon earlier this year and was unable to finish the race.

Lucas Rotich finished second in New York last year and won the Lake Biwa Marathon. The last time he was in Rotterdam was in 2013. “At that time I only could walk on crutches because I just had surgery on a knee here,” he told the press. “But at that time I already knew that someday I wanted to run the marathon here.”

Korir and Kuma are members of the new NN Running Team, which was presented in Rotterdam this week. It’s an initiative of Jos Hermens to bring together about 60 top athletes in road running who will be working together and will be supported as a cycling team. IAAF President Sebastian Coe welcomed the team concept as an opportunity for innovation and a new format that can make a difference.

The other recent marathon winners in Rotterdam are Festus Talam who won in Eindhoven last year with a PB of 2:06:26, Philemon Rono who won in Toronto last year, Luka Kanda who won in Cannes, Rome and Valencia, and Lawrence Cherono who has won in Prague and Honolulu.

From a Dutch point of view, the NN Rotterdam Marathon will bring together the three fastest athletes at this time. Michel Butter set his PB of 2:09:58 at the 2012 Amsterdam Marathon, while Khalid Choukoud set his PB of 2:10:52 in Rotterdam three years ago. But Abdi Nageeye is expected to come out on top in the Dutch battle on Sunday. He has the most recent PB – 2:10:24, set in 2015 – and finished 11th in the marathon at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Three more proven marathon winners feature in the women’s field.

Lucy Karimi won in Prague last year with a PB of 2:24:46. The experienced Kenyan also set PBs of 1:08:43 and 53:05 last year for the half marathon and 10 miles respectively.

Her main rivals will be Eunice Chumba who finished third in Amsterdam in 2:25:00 and won in Dongying, and Meskerem Assefa who won in Houston in January this year in 2:25:12. The goal for the women’s race will be a finishing time within 2:24.

The organisation will welcome about 43,000 runners for the marathon and other distances on Saturday and Sunday. Among them are 4000 children who also will finish at the Coolsingel.

Cors van den Brink for the IAAF