Tilahun Regassa is starting to amass a more-than-respectable marathon record after winning the 2014 De Lage Landen Marathon Eindhoven in 2:06:21 on Sunday (12).
The victory took his tally to two out of his four outings over the classic distance, both his victories coming on Dutch roads having also won the 2013 Rotterdam Marathon.
The Ethiopian made a decisive surge in the 36th kilometre in Eindhoven to quickly put daylight between himself and his main rivals.
In addition to putting his fellow runners well behind him, the burst of acceleration also helped him forget all the worries of a slight left knee injury which had troubled him in the weeks prior to the race, and even on the start line.
“It was something that was bothering me throughout the race but only a little bit,” said the regular training partner of distance running great Kenenisa Bekele. "When the pace was about 63 minutes at halfway, I was happy as I could feel that my knee was OK at this pace and so I am very happy to have the win, and not unhappy about missing the course record or my personal best (2:05:27)."
The race started in perfect conditions for fast times – 10 degrees Celsius, slightly overcast and almost no wind – and the weather stayed calm for the rest of the morning.
After a relatively sedate first 5km in 15:10, a leading group of eight reached 10km in 29:39.
The group contained Regassa, his compatriot Deriba Merga, and the Kenyan trio of Jonathan Maiyo, Leonard Komon and Richard Sigei, as well as three Kenyan pacemakers: Sammy Kigen, Victor Kirui and Alfers Lagat.
The group was still packed tightly at 15km, passing in 44:31, and stayed together for the next seven kilometres as 20km was reached in 59:36 and then the halfway point passed in 1:03:05.
The pack started to break up shortly after halfway, with Kirui stepping to the side of the road. Merga and Komon started to drift off the pace in the 23rd kilometre.
Now down to five, including pacers Kigen and Lagat, 25km was reached in 1:14:25.
Sigei was the next to weaken and he could not stay with Regassa and Maiyo for much longer but the remaining quartet went through 30km in 1:29:22, at which point it looked possible that Dickson Chumba’s course record of 2:05:46 from 2012 might fall.
However, all thoughts of records started to diminish in the next 5km stretch before the four runners reached 35km in 1:44:36.
Shortly afterwards, Regassa seemed to sense it was the right moment to throw down the gauntlet and nobody else picked it up.
Lagat, who had been given the green light at 35km by the race director Peer Pulles, along with Kigen, to finish despite his initial role as a pacemaker, initially held second place after Regassa’s breakaway until Maiyo started to show his experience and strength, and overtook his compatriot just before 39km.
However, Regassa also had plenty in reserve and had no problem keeping Maiyo at bay for the remainder of the race. The Kenyan eventually crossed the line second in 2:06:47.
Lagat, despite tiring over the final three kilometres, finished his first marathon in 2:07:11.
Komon, of whom much had been expected considering his credentials over shorter distances on the roads, finished a very disappointed sixth in 2:14:25.
“At 23km my legs started to feel very tired but I was determined to finish," said Komon, the world record-holder for 10km and 15km. "During the last hour of the race I asked myself a lot of questions. I did a lot of thinking in the final 15km as I was passing nobody other than joggers (on the first lap of the two laps of the city)."
The first woman home was Poland's Iwona Lewandowska in 2:28:33, just one second outside her personal best.
Lewandowska was out on her own in the women’s race almost from the gun, although helped by male runners around her, and she passed halfway in 1:13:46 before becoming the first Polish woman to win in Eindhoven.
She also took the World Military Marathon Championships title, an event run in conjunction with the race. The men’s gold medal in the championships also went to Poland with former European junior 3000m steeplechase champion Marcin Chabowski finishing eighth overall in 2:15:04.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF
1 Tilahun Regassa (ETH) 2:06:21
2 Jonathan Maiyo (KEN) 2:06:47
3 Alfers Lagat (KEN) 2:07:10
4 Sammy Kigen Korir (KEN) 2:08:05
5 Richard Sigei (KEN) 2:12:36
6 Leonard Komon (KEN) 2:14:25
1 Iwona Lewandowska (POL) 2:28:33
2 Olha Kalendarova-Ochal (POL) 2:32:06
3 Monika Stefanowitz (POL) 2:32:25
4 Kim Dillen (NED) 2:36:35
5 Gina Slaby (USA) 2:43:57
6 Annelies Deketelaere (BEL) 2:49:09