Mission accomplished for Eliud Kipchoge at Twente Airport, by Tim te Brake/ NN Running



2021 NN Mission Marathon, 18 April 2021, photo by NN Running

Consider this. You have a bevy of elite athletes who need an Olympic qualifier. Two weeks before the race, pandemic rules are updated and you must move race...to another country.

Well, Jos Hermans and his team just did it!

Moving the race to another country, and having Enschede Marathon saving the day!

Eliud Kipchoge returned to winning form and Katherina Steinruck took the women's race!

And a good day had by all!

Mission accomplished for Eliud Kipchoge at Twente Airport

Kenyan marathon maestro Eliud Kipchoge returned to the top of the podium today by claiming victory in the NN Mission Marathon in Enschede courtesy of a slick world-leading mark of 2:04:30. In the women's race, German Katharina Steinruck produced a dominant display to wipe almost a minute-and-a-half from her lifetime best and clinch an impressive win in 2:25:59.

Running in overcast conditions at Twente Airport the race billed 'the fastest way to Tokyo' lived up to expectations as 25 athletes dipped under the Olympic automatic qualification standard (15 men and 10 women).

For Kipchoge, victory in Enschede was a welcome return to form after the 36-year-old suffered his first marathon defeat in seven years in London last October. Paced through halfway in 1:01:43 - running alongside his training partner and fellow NN Running Team athlete Jonathan Korir - Eliud made his winning strike around 33km when the marathon great accelerated ahead of the field.

The remainder of the race was a demonstration of Eliud's marathon masterfulness as he picked up the pace from 35km and proved he is back to his formidable best. Korir was rewarded with a five-second PB, recording 2:06:40 for second - with Eliud giving his close friend a post-race hug in celebration.


2021 NN Mission Marathon, 18 April 2021, photo by NN Running

Goitom Kifle of Eritrea also produced a splendid performance to trim two seconds from his lifetime best to take third in 2:08:07. NNRT athlete Philemon Kacheran - who acted as one of Eliud's pacemakers - continued to the finish and was rewarded with fourth in 2:08:47.

Eliud said of race victory: "It is mission accomplished. The conditions were really good, a bit windy but I have no complaint, we were running as one. The race was really perfect. The NN Mission Marathon was a real test before Tokyo. It was so good a marathon that happened a few months before the Olympics to test our fitness. I thank the great men and women who organized this race in less than 10 days. To organize this in the middle of a pandemic and show that people can still run and deliver their best race before the Olympics is very important."


2021 NN Mission Marathon, 18 April 2021, photo by NN Running

In the women's race, Steinruck, running in race tights, hit halfway in 1:12:58 before kicking clear of her rivals in the second half of the race. Behind, the vastly experienced Sara Moreira of Portugal was rewarded for a patient display to take second in 2:26:42 with the fast-finishing German Rabea Schoneborn scalping more than a minute-and-a-half from her PB to take third in 2:27:03.

The race was originally set to take place in Hamburg on April 11, however, Covid restrictions forced the race organizers - NN Running Team, Hamburg Marathon, and Global Sports Communication - to postpone the event and secure a different location. Thankfully organizers of the Enschede Marathon helped out to organize a specially designed eight-lap course at Twente Airport, to ensure the race would go ahead.

Global Sports Communication Director Jos Hermens said: "It is so special that we have been able to organize this race at such short notice. This is the competitive opportunity the athletes deserve while chasing the dream of an Olympic ticket. These are challenging times and I'm so happy and proud we come together with our partners to make this possible."

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