There is another Wanjiru in town who is very good in marathon running, almost five years since Kenya tragically lost Beijing 2008 Olympics champion, Samuel Kamau to a freak accident at his Nyahururu home.
His namesake and 24 year-old Daniel Wanjiru wrote his name in the lights when he upset all predictions to upset the favourites and bless the TCS Amsterdam Marathon with a storming new 2:05:19 course record on Sunday in leading yet another Kenyan sweep of the podium in the men’s race.
Running in only his third marathon Wanjiru timed his breakaway from two-time Chicago runner-up and one of the pre-race favourites, Sammy Kitwara and Geoffrey Kirui at the 38km mark to motor away to his first major victory as he erased three-time winner, Wilson Chebet’s 2:05:36 previous route best set in 2013.
The pre-race talk in the men’s showdown was all about Kitwara who was seeking his maiden big victory in the ultimate distance event held on for second in an impressive 2:05:43 as Marius Kimutai who came charging through the second half of the race landed in the final podium place in 2:05:47 to round the Kenyan sweep.
Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu broke off and powered unchallenged to the women’s title in 2:23:20 to quash the comeback dream London 2012 Olympics silver medallist, Priscah Jeptoo who finished fourth had on her debut in the Dutch city.
Compatriot Abebech Afework came home in 2:24:27 for the Ethiopian 1-2 as Eunice Chumba prevented the sweep when she clocked 2:25:00 for bronze.
Having asked for a 2:04 pace, Kitwara, a two-time Chicago runners-up was on the heels of the pacemakers led by Edwin Kiptoo as he sought his first victory in a major marathon having done eight races over the ultimate distance.
The leading group in the men that had among others, ‘Mr. Amsterdam’ and three-time winner and course record holder, Wilson Chebet, titleholder, Bernard Kipyego and Geoffrey Kirui who debut in Rotterdam in April as well as Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma passed 5K in 14:57.
However, the pace significantly dropped and the field was outside the 2:05:36 course record when they went through 15K in 44:47 for a projected 2:06 finish with Kitwara most keen on getting the speed lifted.
The ‘big three’ that had Chebet and Kipyego were still in the running at the front as the leaders went through 20K at 60:03 and half at 63:17 that was outside the time the latter won with last year.
Kitwara started accelerating the pace and was shoulder to shoulder with the remaining rabbit Kiptoo as he whispered in his ears when they arrived at 30K in 1.29.47.
At this point, up to a dozen runners were still in contention but Chebet who won the third of his Amsterdam titles in 2012 started struggling before he hauled himself back into contention back into the leading group.
As they approached eight kilometres to the finish, Kitwara stepped on the gas followed by Kirui, 28, and Daniel Wanjiru, the dark horse who had bid his time in the middle of the leading pack before separating from the challengers when the leader upped the ante.
At some point as the race got to its business end, Kitwara urged Wanjiru to take up some of the front running but the fourth finisher in Prague (2:08:08) in May chose to trail the leader with Kirui who ran 2:07:23 for third in Rotterdam.
With just over 5K to run, hopes of Kipyego completing a hat-trick of Amsterdam victories dissipated when he started falling off from the chasing pack as Kitwara’s relentless pursuit of a major victory in the ultimate distance continued as Wanjiru moved to run side by side with Kirui a step behind.
With three kilometres to go, the Kenyan podium sweep was on the card as Wanjiru, Kitwara and Kirui continued motoring to a sub 2:06 pace with the speed having picked up dramatically in the second half split.
And after the next kilometre, Wanjiru injected a sudden turn of pace to open up a gap over Kitwara in a surprising move as the 24 year-old to throw down the gauntlet to the more experienced Kitwara, 30, and Kirui with less than ten minutes to go.
Sensing the headlines and a big city marathon victory, Wanjiru who was being urged on by manager Jos Hermens in the lead vehicle pressed down the pedal and opened up a big lead on Kitwara.
He continued pounding the streets as the gap continued growing with the new leader pushing as the race evolved to a battle between him and the clock.
The corresponding women’s race was all about the comeback of former London and New York marathon winner, Priscah Jeptoo who was returning after a spate of debilitating leg and spinal injuries.
The women set off like a light, clocking a brisk 16:57 for 5K and 33:45 for 10K with Jeptoo, Ethiopia’s favourite Meselech Melkamu, Lucy Karimi and Dibaba Kuma, a sister to Abera assuming the lead.
Dibaba started to struggle as the leading group crossed 20K in 67:38 that was inside the 2:22 finishing mark Jeptoo was targeting in a bid to announce her return to form.
They then went through the half in 1:11:45 and 25K in 1:24:16 in steady running but it was not to be for Jeptoo after she fell off the pace.
The first women group crossed 35km in 1.57.53 with Melkamu and Chumba in first and second before Afework reeled in the tiring Kenyan who was pushed to the last podium place.
Courtesy of By Mutwiri Mutuota For Citizen Digital