The Belgian’s winning time was just 11 seconds shy of the European and course record he set when winning in the Dutch city two years ago. He was pushed all the way by Kenya’s Timothy Kiplagat, who finished second in 2:03:50, a PB by 90 seconds.
Eunice Chumba, meanwhile, won the women’s race by more than a minute in 2:20:31 – the second-fastest time ever recorded in the women’s race in Rotterdam. She also became the first athlete from Bahrain to win this race.
In the men’s race, a large group passed through 10km in a steady 29:29 before reaching the half-way point in 1:02:15. Abdi and Kiplagat were among the leading pack, as was defending champion Abdi Nageeye and Ethiopian duo Dawit Wolde and Chala Regasa.
The pace picked up between 25km and 30km, with that segment covered in 14:38, and the lead pack had been reduced to five men, which still included Kiplagat, Wolde and Abdi. Kiplagat and Abdi continued to push the pace and they broke away from the last of their pursuers with just under 10km remaining.
“I’m very happy that I won again in Rotterdam,” said Abdi. “The weather conditions were not ideal and the pace changed quite a bit, but I ran my second fastest time ever.”
In the women’s race, Chumba had just three other women for company – Kenya’s Pascalia Jepkosgei, Ethiopia’s Meseret Gebre and Eritrea’s Dolshi Tesfu – as she passed through 10km in 32:33.
Chumba, Gebre and Tesfu reached the half-way point in 1:08:43, well inside the pace required to break the course record of 2:18:58 set 11 years ago by 2012 Olympic champion Tiki Gelana, who was also in this race.
Tesfu and Chumba continued to run together up until 35km, reached in 1:55:50, but Chumba then started to open up a bit of a gap on her rival in the final few kilometres. The Bahraini record-holder went on to win in 2:20:31, just 29 seconds shy of her PB and her third sub-2:21 clocking within 12 months. Tesfu was second in 2:21:35.
Chumba’s compatriot Rose Chelimo, the 2017 world champion, made her way through the field in the second half of the race to place third in 2:26:21. Gelana, meanwhile, finished sixth in 2:27:19, her fastest time in eight years.
Over on the other side of the Netherlands, Alfred Barkach and Shyline Toroitich scored a Kenyan double at the Enschede Marathon, a World Athletics Label road race.
Barkach, who was making his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2:08:50 from compatriot Bernard Kipyego (2:09:13). Toroitich, meanwhile, was a comfortable winner of the women’s race in 2:22:43 from Uganda’s Mercyline Chelangat (2:24:09).