With 500 meters remaining in the 29th Fortis Marathon Rotterdam today, Kenyan James Kwambai seemed headed for the big marathon victory that he so richly deserved. Second to Haile Gebrselassie at last year's real,- Berlin Marathon when the Ethiopian great lowered his own world record, Kwambai's 2:05:36 didn't get much attention. But today, off of an aggressive early pace which saw the field hit 10-K in 29:18, Kwambai smoked the 5 km between 30 and 35-K in 14:23 and had finally dropped all of his rivals, even Nike/Rosa teammate Duncan Kibet, who had drifted about ten meters back.
But in the final push for the line, the bearded Kibet closed up on Kwambai, then unleashed the kick which had brought him multiple victories on the USA road racing circuit in 2007. Kibet scooted past his rival with just ten meters to go, winning in a course record 2:04:27, the third-fastest marathon ever run. Kwambai was given the same time.
Kibet is now the #2 performer of all-time behind only Gebrselassie (with Kwambai #3), and displaced Paul Tergat as the Kenyan record holder. Not far behind, Abel Kirui held on for third place in a personal best 2:05:04, the best time ever for a third place finish in a marathon. Making his debut, half-marathon ace Patrick Makau finished fourth in 2:06:14, the second-fastest debut marathon performance ever.
There was a huge upset in the women's race. Russian Nailya Yulamanova, who only had a modest 2:30:17 personal best going into the race, beat both Kenyan Lydia Cheromei and Romanian Adriana Pirtea, slashing her career best time by nearly four minutes to 2:26:30. Cheromei was a distant second in 2:28:09, and Pirtea was well back in third in 2:36:36.
NOTE: We will have a more complete story from WIM VAN HEMERT in Rotterdam in tomorrow's RRW --Ed.
Photo courtesy of the Fortis Marathon Rotterdam