Kenya’s Marius Kipserem and Letebrhan Haylay Gebreslasea of Ethiopia were the winners at the 36th edition of the NN Marathon Rotterdam, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (10).
Kipserem notched his upset victory in 2:06:11 to knock more than three minutes from the previous career best of 2:09:21 he set when winning the Hefei Marathon last October, one of three Chinese marathons he won in 2015.
Joining him on the podium were two runners who made their debuts over the distance in Rotterdam: 22-year-old Ethiopian Solomon Deksisa, who finished second in 2:06:22, and Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui, who was third in 2:07:22.
“I am very happy with this race,” Kipserem said. “After 30K it was tough and I asked the others to push together. After that I felt strong again and that’s why I could win here.”
Kirui was the most astonished man on the podium.
“This is wonderful,” said Kirui, the 2012 world junior 10,000m bronze medallist. “I was expecting a time of 2:09 in my first marathon, not yet 2:07. But I was well prepared.”
In the early stages, a group of 20 decided to follow the three pacemakers, who left Rotterdam’s renowned Coolsingel thoroughfare on a pace to bring them through the half in 1:02:30. At 14:39, the opening 5km was promising but later the pace dropped, with 10km reached in 29:46.
Two of the faster men in the field, Ethiopia's Ayele Abshero and John Mwangangi of Kenya, fell back between the 10th and 15th kilometres. Tsegaye Kebede, however, another pre-race favourite, was still faring well.
By 15km, passed in 44:26, the lead group was reduced to 12 plus the trio of pacesetters. They then reached the midway point in 1:02:20, slightly ahead of schedule.
At the second pass over the Erasmus Bridge – shortly after the 25km mark – the lead group was down to eight, five Kenyans and three Ethiopians: Kipserem, Kirui, Vincent Chepkok, Matthew Kisorio, Allan Kiprono, Deksisa, Kebede, and Limenih Getachew.
By 30km Kebede started to drift back and was some five seconds behind Kipserem, Kirui and Deksisa, who ran together, content with watching one another rather than upping the tempo.
Kipserem made the decisive move with less than five kilometres remaining; Kirui was dropped but Deksisa hung on. Kipserem accelerated again as he passed the 40km marker in 1:59:41, finally leaving Deksisa in his wake.
Patience pays for Gebreslasea
In the women’s contest, Sutume Asefa Kebede went out fast, covering the first 5km in 16:53, a massive 46 seconds ahead of her pursuers and on 2:18 pace.
She maintained her lead, bringing a chase pack of six through 10km in 33:02 before reaching the midway point in 1:10:49, nearly two minutes clear of Haylay Gebreslasea and Kenya's Bornes Kitur, with another Kenyan, Rebecca Korir, and Swede Isabellah Anderson running fourth and fifth.
But disaster struck the leader after 30km when she was hit with stitch. As Asefa slowed dramatically, Haylay Gebreslasea chipped away at the deficit en route to her 2:26:15 victory.
“The first half of the race was difficult for me,” said Haylay Gebreslasea. "I was just running to keep my second place, but at 35k I saw Kebede in front of me and I realised I could win here."
Kebede, who clocked 2:24:00 at January’s Dubai Marathon, hung on to finish second in 2:28:04 with Korir third in 2:29:16.
Conditions were nearly ideal, with a start time temperature of 8C, with little wind and humidity of 62 per cent.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF