Following the successful launch of the NN Running Team in the spring which brought about a string of high-profile podium finishes, the powerful squad will seek more success during the mouthwatering fall road running season. Here are five key races where the Team will be seeking to make a big impact in the coming weeks.
1 – Berlin Marathon – Sept 24
The NN Running Team is ready to break the World Record in Berlin. The streets of the German capital will be the perfect backdrop for the marathon of the century starring NN Running Team’s two marquee names – Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele – in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated marathon showdowns of the generation.
Since Eliud stepped up to the marathon distance from the track in 2013 he has proved virtually unbeatable over the 42.2km racking up a stunning seven wins from eight races – including the 2016 Rio Olympic title and victory in Berlin two years ago.
The Kenyan great has spoken openly about attacking Dennis Kimetto’s world marathon record of 2:02:57 and with an official marathon best of 2:03:05 and on the back of his sensational 2:00:25 clocking for the for the marathon distance in May as part of the Breaking2 project, many predict the 32-year-old to achieve his ambitions.
Eliud’s biggest rival in challenging the world record is NN team mate Kenenisa Bekele, the three-time Olympic track champion, who since stepping up the marathon has continued to reveal his incredible gifts. Last year in Berlin the 35-year-old Ethiopian was electrifying setting a national record of 2:03:03 to climb to number two on the all-time rankings.
On a course commonly regarded as the fastest in the world, the showdown between the pair could prove to be one of the great marathon battles of all time.
2 – Chicago Marathon – Oct 8
At the 2016 edition Abel Kirui and Florence Kiplagat completed a Kenyan double and 12 months on the NN Running Team colleagues will once again look to depart the “Windy City” as champions.
For the charismatic, Abel, a two-time former World champion, victory last year in Chicago represented a welcome resurgence of form after several fallow years and after recovering from a series of injury niggles earlier this year he will be confident of retaining his crown.
Florence, meanwhile, will be seeking to make history in Chicago as the first athlete (man or women) to claim a hat-trick of marathon titles. The 30-year-old mother has become a Chicago specialist finishing runner up in 2014 before her back-to-back successes in 2015 and 2016 – the latter achieved in a swift 2:21:32.
3 – Amsterdam Marathon – Oct 15
Few athletes on the NN Running Team hold quite the allure of Abdi Nageeye and all eyes will be on the Dutch favourite when he takes to the streets of Amsterdam next month. The athlete, who earlier this year switched his training base from Ethiopia to Kenya is hopeful the move can maintain his steady upwardly mobile progress of recent seasons. On this very course in 2015 he posted an impressive PB of 2:10:24 and last year he placed a highly respectable 11th in the Rio Olympic Marathon. Earlier this year in Rotterdam he lowered his PB to 2:09:34 and in Amsterdam he will be targeting to become the second Dutch athlete ever to run a sub 2:09 marathon!
4 – New York City Marathon – Nov 5
The NN Running Team will also be optimistic of a good showing in the final Marathon Major of the year in “The Big Apple.” Leading their challenge will be defending champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, the 2015 World marathon champion, who made history last year to become the first Eritrean to win the New York Marathon. Bolstering the NN Running Team’s bid for glory is the super versatile reigning World Cross Country and World Half-Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor. The 24-year-old Kenyan also boasts a strong marathon pedigree and performed with distinction in the 2015 edition of the New York Marathon placing second behind Stanley Biwott in a tight battle.
5 – NN Zevenheuvelenloop (Seven Hills) – Nov 19
The NN sponsored Zevenheuvelenloop is regarded as the most prestigious 15km event in the world. Rising NN running star Joshua Cheptegei will be chasing the top spot and has set his mind on a potential world record. The Ugandan has come off the back of an outstanding track season culminating with silver in the 10,000m at the London World Championships. In Nijmegen he will seek to become the first man since Tonnie Dirks (1989-91) to claim a hat-trick of Zevenheuvelenloop titles. Last year Cheptegei stopped the clock in 42:08 but given his rich vein of form, Leonard Komen’s world record 15km mark of 41:13 – set in this historic race seven years ago – could be vulnerable.