One question that can easily come to one’s mind when they see four runners in a leading pack at the closing stages of a marathon race is; who will miss the podium?
At the 39km point, there were still four runners in the leading pack of the men’s race at the 41st edition of the NN Rotterdam Marathon; two Europeans and two Africans. To break it further, it was one Kenyan; one Belgian; one Ethiopian, and one Dutch. It was a perfect recipe to cook a mouth-watering finish to a long distance race.
Indeed, the last few hundred meters of the men’s created some lasting memories to be remembered, and most certainly there will emerge a video clip of the final stages of this epic race in the future, just like that of the interesting battle between the late Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Just before the 40km point, Bashir waved almost secretly to his friend, Nageeye to make a move. It looked like a coded message meant to alert him that he had already reached his breaking point and that the latter should forget about his company and focus on winning the race for himself. Soon after, the defending champion was dropped at 40km when Kenya’s Reuben Kipyego made a surge at the front.
However, the same fire that he lit would soon consume Kipyego as he was the second one to be dropped behind from the remaining pack of three. Nageeye and Leul Gebresilase began to run shoulder to shoulder. It was obvious that the two were now definitely going to win the top two positions, and that it was just a matter of minutes before we could know the order.
It was already a win for the main sponsor of the race, the NN Team, as the two runners wore the NN Running Team’s uniform. But, still, they were two different individuals representing two different continents and two different countries.
The two started to kick harder with about 400m to go. What a thrilling finish it was turning out to be! Who wanted it more? Both could smell the victory. It was so close.
In a determined effort to break away and go for the win, Gebresilase kicked a little bit harder for the finish line, and, for a while, his chest appeared slightly ahead. Nageeye answered back and they soon ran shoulder to shoulder again. It was going to be a long hard sprint to the finish line for both of them. None seemed to be willing to let the victory slip through their fingers.
But in the end, Nageeye would manage to edge Gebresilase by one second before he crossed the finish line in 2:04:56. Not only was this another great victory for Nageeye, but it was also much more. It was the first time that a Dutch ever won the marathon since its inception in 1981. Nageeye also registered a new national record for the Netherlands.
The women’s race was less dramatic given that the top positions could easily be predicted so early in the race as the leading women ran in separate groups among the men.
Finally, the 24-year-old Ethiopian, Haven Hailu got to win a big city marathon after running a number of fast times on the roads without ever winning a marathon title to her name.
Hailu broke away from her competitors in the second half of the race to do a solo run at the front before proceeding to break the tape in 2:21:59 (unofficial).
Behind her, two national records fell. It was a special for the Netherlands as Nienke Brinkman finished second in a new national record of 2:22:49 (unofficial) after creating a big gap ahead of Zhanna Mamazhanova who came in third also with a new national record for Kazakhstan in 2:26:49 (unofficial).