With two second places and three third places among the results of his 10 marathons before he stepped on the start line of the 2014 TCS Amsterdam Marathon, Bernard Kipyego later admitted that he had started to wonder when his day would come, but he finally triumphed in a marathon with a personal best of 2:06:22 at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (19).
Kipyego finished just under a minute outside the course record of 2:05:36 set by his compatriot Wilson Chebet 12 months ago, but it was still an outstanding performance considering the unseasonal high temperatures and humidity in the Dutch city and a seven-second improvement on his personal best, which had dated back to the 2011 Chicago Marathon.
The first intermediate time in the men’s race, 5km in 15:12, showed that the pacemakers were being prudent as the mercury rose to 19 degrees Celsius and the humidity was around 90 per cent.
“We had to be careful (at the the start),” said Kipyego after the race.
A big group went through 10km (30:11), 15km (45:08) and 20km (1:00:30) together, battling against a strong wind as they ran alongside the Amstel River.
Halfway, shortly after the turning point by the famous Ouderkerk, was reached in 1:03:41 and, disappointingly for the organisers who wanted a course record in the 39th edition of their marathon, chances of setting a new standard looked to have disappeared.
At least, in the second half of the race on the way back to the centre of Amsterdam, the wind was at the runners’ backs.
As the pace accelerated, so runners some started to struggle. At 25km, there were only the two pacemakers – Michael Mutai and Eliud Tarus – and nine others, but all the favourites were still there.
The first favourite to get in trouble was Ayele Abshero, who shortly after 30km, which was reached in 1:29:51, fell away from the leading group and then dropped out of the race with a calf problem.
A few kilometres further it was Wilson Chebet, hunting for his fourth win in the Amsterdam Marathon, who was in trouble and later dropped out.
At 35km, the leading group consisted of two-time world champion Abel Kirui – racing for the first time in Amsterdam – Kipyego, John Mwangangi, Essa Rashed and Lucas Rotich.
However, it was now the turn of Kirui, who has been suffering from intermittent bouts of malaria in the past few months, to struggle after Kipyego took the lead with less than five kilometres to go.
“I wanted to force the pace a bit, but I decided to wait for a part of the course where the wind was coming from behind," said Kipyego, who put nearly a minute between himself and his rivals in the last five kilometres. "I (earlier) told Lucas to push to break Abel and the others. We did it where we were covered from the wind.
“I am happy to finally win a big marathon. The time was the maximum today given the conditions,” added the delighted winner.
Kipyego’s friend and training partner Rotich was second in 2:07:18, and Mwangangi was third in 2:07:28, both men setting personal bests. Kirui finished sixth in 2:09:45.
In the women’s race, a leading group of five Ethiopian athletes worked together in the first 20km: Meseret Hailu, Worknesh Alemu, Guteni Shone, Megertu Ifa and Betelhem Moges.
The intermediate times were: 10km 34:14, 15km 51:34 and 20km in 1:08:59.
At halfway, Moges, Shone and Ifa were still together, passing 21km in 1:12:40.
By contrast to the leading men though, the top women found the second half of the race harder going.
The 23-year-old Moges proved the strongest, taking the lead just after 25km. She passed 30km in 1:43:24, 35km in 2:01:05 and finally 40km in 2:20:13 before crossing the line in 2:28:35 for her first ever marathon win.
Kenya’s Ogla Kimayo came through strongly in the second half of the race to finish second in 2:29:15 and Burundi’s Canada-based Diane Nukuri Johnson was third in 2:29:35, breaking her own national record.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF