Amsterdam — Kenya's Lawrence Cherono was the surprise winner of the TCS Amsterdam Marathon, taking more than a minute off his Personal best to set a course record of 2:05:09 at the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday.
Nobert Kigen finished second in 2:05:13 and Abraham Kiptum third in 2:05:26.
Ethiopia's Tadelech Bekele won the women's race in 2:21:54, the second-fastest winning time in the history of the event and just 45 seconds shy of the course record. She won by almost three minutes from Gladys Chesir (2:24:51), while Azmera Abreha finished third in 2:25:23.
In the men's race, a large group containing all the favourites covered the first five kilometres in 14:56 but then slowed slightly as they reached 10 kilometres in 29:52.
Led by pacemakers Albert Kangogo, Sammy Kitwara and Edwin Koech, a group of 20 men reached 15 kilometres in 44:47 and 20 kilometres in 59:50. The clock read 1:02:50 at half way, and from that point on they had the wind on their backs, making a negative split a slightly less daunting task.
With the large lead pack still bunched together, the intermediate split of 1:14:42 at 25 kilometres suggested that a negative split was possible. After Kitwara, the final pacemaker, exited the race at 28 kilometres, Cherono took the initiative to set the pace.
With 30 kilometres reached in 1:29:52, more and more of the lead pack - including three-time winner Wilson Chebet - struggled to cope with Cherono's pace.
Kiptum and Amos Kipruto attempted to go with Cherono, while Kigen and Mule Wasihun were close behind. The 35-kilometre split of 1:44:22 suggested Daniel Wanjiru's course record of 2:05:21 may be out of reach.
But through the Vondelpark, between 38 and 40 kilometres, Cherono, Kigen and Kiptum had enough energy to increase the pace.
Kiptum was the first of the lead trio to surrender his chances of winning, leaving Cherono and Kigen locked in a battle for the victory inside Amsterdam's Olympic Stadium.
Cherono kicked for the line with 100 metres to go and went on to win in 2:05:09. Kigen, unable to respond, finished four seconds in arrears.
Of the nine marathons Cherono has contested to date, he has won four of them and finished on the podium in eight. Earlier this year he finished second in Rotterdam in 2:06:21.
"I'm very happy with this result," said Cherono. "In the first part, the wind was in front of us, but everything went well after 25k. I tried to push as I wanted a fast time. It was very difficult to predict if I also could win, as we had a strong leading group. But I managed to go a step higher today."
Kigen, still just 24, took almost a minute off the 2:06:07 PB he set earlier this year in Seoul. Kiptum, meanwhile, improved his PB by more than six minutes with his 2:05:26 for third place.
Wasihun was fourth in 2:05:39 and Kipruto was fifth in 2:05:43, marking the first ever marathon outside of Dubai to have five finishers inside 2:06.
-Bekele breaks away-
In the women's race, three athletes were in contention for victory during the first half. Led by three pacemakers, Caroline Rotich, Tadelech Bekele and Genet Yalow passed through 10 kilometres in 33:16 before reaching the half-way point in 1:10:12, suggesting a course record was possible.
After passing 25 kilometres in 1:23:28, Bekele broke away from the others and ran alone for the remainder of the race. Her pace drifted off course record schedule, but she was still able to take almost half a minute off her best, winning in 2:21:54.
Debutante Chesir had a strong second half and moved into second place after Yalow stepped out, eventually crossing the line in 2:24:51.
Abreha, another debutante, was third in 2:25:23, while former track specialist Viola Kibiwot was fourth in 2:25:32, almost a minute ahead of Rotich.
"Everything went well until 35k," said Bekele. "But from that point on I had problems with my stomach. Nevertheless I'm happy with this result."
The temperature at the start was almost perfect: 14C, going up to 20C when the top runners were re-entering the stadium.