Kenyans out to break Amsterdam Marathon course records

Top athletes attend a pre-race press conference of the Amsterdam Marathon. PHOTO/Organisers
Top athletes attend a pre-race press conference of the Amsterdam Marathon. PHOTO/Organisers

The TCS Amsterdam Marathon could be blessed with new course records of Sunday if the Kenyan armada that has pitched camp at the Dutch city for the IAAF Gold Label road race have their way.

Defending champion, Bernard Kipyego will put his men’s title on the line against an imposing cast that includes course record holder and two-time winner, Wilson Chebet, Rome Marathon titleholder, Amos Kipruto and 2014 Chicago Marathon runner-up, Sammy Kitwara.

Ethiopian pair, Abera Kuma and Dina Sefir who have dipped in the 2:05 territory are the others going for the 2:05:36 record set by Chebet when he won his second successive title in 2013.

The corresponding women’s race is all about the anticipated big comeback of 2012/13 World Marathon Majors champion, Priscah Jeptoo, who is also aiming at hammering down the clock after recovering from leg and spinal cord injuries that have blighted her progress for the better part of two seasons.

Kipyego who has won the last two editions of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon in 2:06:22 and 2:06:19 is going for his hat-trick and believes the quality of pace-making employed at this year’s edition could see the existing standard fall.

“We have pacemakers until 30Km then we start the race and assisting each other so I think we will start by staying behind the pacemakers. This year is a strong field and everybody has trained and focused for Amsterdam.

“I’m sure I have done all the best in training, so I’m not afraid of anything. My mindset is to win that race and improve my time,” the 30 year-old 2009 World Half Marathon silver medallist said in the Dutch city.

Kipyego set his lifetime best of 2:06:19 in Amsterdam and is aspiring to go even faster to stand a chance of making Team Kenya for the 2017 IAAF World Championships after missing the Rio 2016 Olympics where he was enlisted as a reserve.

“Although the weather is not really good, I believe I shall use my own target to defend my title. I have 2:06 personal best that I want to improve so that when they select a team for the World Championships, I shall be included,” he underscored.

Kipyego was not downcast by missing Rio selection where Eliud Kipchoge went on to strike gold as Stanley Biwott and Wesley Korir failed to finish after a drinks mix-up.

“I continued training and focusing on Amsterdam and I’m ready. I believe in these guys, we shall do our best to push the time and get something good on Sunday.

Kitwara, 29, on the other hand has laid down the marker stating he is ready to uncork a lifetime best of 2:04 as he targets his maiden marathon victory after coming close in Chicago twice in successive years in 2014 and 15.

He disclosed he opted for Amsterdam this year after Chicago which ran last Sunday stopped enlisting rabbits since he is looking to lower his lifetime best from the 2:04:28 he ran in 2014 when he finished behind Kipchoge.

“I’ve not come to the Amsterdam Airport in three years. I’m happy here. We have strong pace makers, I know two of them are faster and I hope we shall make history here.

“Training was okay, I have been doing a lot of speed work. I have been running alone for the last 10km in the long runs and I was not feeling pain or struggling and that is why I’m targeting 2:04,” the third finisher at the nearby Rotterdam Marathon (2:07:22) in 2013 asserted.

“I know those guys are strong and I know they will push from 30K. I have been talking to the pacemakers so that they can push the pace and I know they can run that time. We want to be at 2:03:50 at that point.

“I was talking to pacemakers telling them if they are still strong, they can push us to 35K tor 36K. I have never been number one in the marathon and that is why I came here since they have pacemakers to push you at the pace you like,” he added.

Kipruto, 24 won Rome in 2:08:12 in April on his full marathon debut and comes in as the veritable dark horse in the race for the honours.

Since his back-to-back wins at Amsterdam, Chebet has racked a second finish in Boston in 2014 where he ran 2:08:48 and was fifth here last year in 2:08:45. He is keen to bounce back to form by collecting a third title on Sunday.

-Jeptoo comeback-

Having won London and New York in 2013, the London 2012 Olympics silver winner, Jeptoo, 32, is in Amsterdam hoping to bounce back to winning form ahead of next season.

“It’s my first time in Amsterdam. In the last two months, I’ve been able to train well without any problem and I ran well at the Great North Run and I can see the problem has gone.

“It feels good because my injury has healed and I’m looking forward to run well,” Jeptoo who was eighth in London this year in 2:27:27 said.

“It has been a tough moment for my career since this injury has disturbed me for long and others have said it is finished. I’m targeting to run 2:22 because in the last two years, I have not run well since in the last two years, I have not run well.

“My coach Claudio (Berardelli) because after running London in April, we discovered we have a spinal cord problem and he sent me to Italy where I stayed the whole of June. They gave me exercises to reinforce my back daily. I realised there was something changing with my back and I’m now capable of running well,” the athlete who broke her leg during the 2014 London Marathon added.

Jeptoo showed some glimpse of good form when she finished second to Olympics champion, Vivian Cheruiyot at the Great Nothern Run where she completed the 21km course in 67:55, a second behind the Rio 2016 10,000m champion who was making her debut over the distance.

Her main rival on paper is Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu who ran 2:22:29 run in Dubai in January where she finished third, and again in April when she won the Hamburg Marathon in 2:21:54.

Ethiopian Abebech Afework, who clocked 2:23:33 in Dubai last year and Kenyan Lucy Karimi, who won the Prague Marathon in May in 2:24:46, will also be in the field.

-Report by Michelle Katami in Amsterdam, Mutwiri Mutuota in Nairobi

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