Abera Kuma from Ethiopia pulled away from his rivals in the last seven kilometres of the 35th edition of de NN Rotterdam Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, to win in 2:06:46 on Sunday (12).
But Kuma’s maiden marathon win was tinged with disappointment as he was aiming for an improvement on his best of 2:05:56, set when he finished third at the Berlin Marathon last September.
“The wind was really too strong,” said Kuma.
Kenya’s Mark Kiptoo finished second in 2:07:20 and his compatriot Bernard Koech, who did a lot of work in the second part of the race, was third in 2:08:02.
The first half of the race was super-quick. After passing 10km in 29:03 and continuing to rocket around the Dutch port city, at 15km the race director Eric Brommert asked the pacemakers to slow down a little bit.
Nevertheless, pacemakers Edwin Kiptoo, Vincent Rono and Nicholas Kipkemboi brought the leading group to the half marathon point in a time of 1:02:04, with 10 athletes behind them and a sub-2:05 time clearly on the cards.
Just before the leaders had to cross the Erasmus Bridge again at 25km, two of the pacemakers finished their job but also one of the favourites, Jonathan Maiyo, dropped out.
A few minutes later, another well-known runner, James Kwambai, couldn’t follow the pace of the leaders any more and a little later also had to drop out.
At 30km, when the last pacemaker was out of the race, two Kenyans and three Ethiopians were still in the leading group: Koech, Kuma, Kiptoo, Tebalu Zuwade and Abayleh Ayele.
Koech continued to lead the way, with the others seemingly happy just trying to follow his pace.
Zuwade was the first ‘victim’ and then Ayele as Koech pushed on, although the pace had progressively slowed down as the runners faced into the teeth of the wind.
After going around the Kralingse Plas, the lake and park where the Rotterdam Marathon has its roots, Kuma accelerated, and Koech and Kiptoo couldn’t answer this attack.
“It was a great race for us. The support of the crowd was fabulous,” said Kiptoo. “But next time, we should help each other more to get a better time. There wasn’t enough cooperation.”
“I tried to push several times (after the halfway point), but nobody was helping,” added Koech. “At the end, the strong wind in the last seven kilometres was too much for me.”
Abdi Nageeye was the fastest in the race for the Dutch national title. He finished ninth overall in 2:12:32.
In the women’s race, a leading group of four quickly established themselves at the front: Japan’s Asami Kato, Ethiopia’s Marta Tigabea, Peru’s Gladys Tejeda and Kenya’s Bornes Kitur.
At the halfway point, Kato and Tigabea were still in the lead with 1:12:03 on the clock while Tejeda and Kitur were starting to slip back.
Kato forged ahead at about 27km and left Tigabea behind, finishing almost two minutes clear of her nearest challenger in 2:26:30.
Tejeda ran a tactically astute race to come through well for second place in a personal best of 2:28:12 while Krista Duchene from Canada was third in 2:29:38.
"It was a good race but I’m a bit disappointed with this time,” said Kato, despite improving her own best by more than two minutes.
Miranda Boonstra won the Dutch women’s title in 2:32:13.
The 15,000 runners in the Rotterdam Marathon started the race at a temperature of 12C, which climbed up to 14C while the elite runners were on the road. But the strong breeze, from a south-westerly direction, often reached four metres-per-second.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF