The History of the Amsterdam Marathon

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” Emil Zatopek

The decision to run the Amsterdam Marathon was taken in 1974 by AV’23. The athletics club soon realized that it needed help from other sporting groups and athletic clubs to organize an race of this size. AV’23 found this support in Blauw Wit, Sagitta, ADA, ATOS and Startbaan.

The 1st Amsterdam Marathon as it is known today was ran on 3 May 1975. The start and finish line were at the Olympic Stadium. The 1st marathon was won by Joergen Jensen from Denmark who ran the distance in 2.16.51. 12 months later Karel Lismont, European champion (Helsinki, 1971) and 2nd a the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 came to Amsterdam. He was a small, tough athlete, still regarded by a lot of people as the best marathon runner of all time, won the race in extremely hot weather conditions. Another marathon legend, Bill Rodgers, came to Amsterdam 12 months later. The USA citizen, who had previously taken out the Boston marathon in 1975, finished 1st in the fantastic time of 2.09.55.

The Amsterdam Marathon remained on Dam square until 1989. The Marathon’s new start and finish line became Museumplein. Via the newly-constructed Amsterdam ArenA, the Amsterdam marathon finally returned to its original home, the Olympic Stadium. Organized in Nov. for the first time, the 1996 Amsterdam Marathon was an outstanding success and improved in the years that followed.

The still unknown Kenyan Joseph Chebet, who ran his 1st marathon outside his home country in blustery and windy weather conditions, presented Amsterdam once more with another wonderful finishing time for men-2.10.57. He was followed by his countryman Sammy Korir, who won in both 1997 (2.08.24) and 1998 in (2.08.13). In that same year the Amsterdam Marathon also saw its fastest woman runner. Catherina McKiernan from Ireland who ran a fabulous time of 2.22.23.

An international breakthrough was the marathon of 1999 when no less than 5 runners finished the 42.195 metres in under 2.10.00. 4 even finished under 2.07.00. They were: Fred Kiprop (Kenya, 2.06.47), Tesfaye Jifar (Ethiopia, 2.06.49), William Kiplagat (Kenya, 2.06.50) and Tesfaye Tola (Ethiopia, 2.06.57), occupying respectively 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th places that year. These performances helped Amsterdam into the world’s top-10 list of best marathon cities (where it ranks number 7).

In response to requests from the many amateur athletes who wanted to finish within a certain time limit, the race organizers introduced a 6-hour time limit for the full marathon in 2001. The finish venue in 2000, the Olympic Stadium also became the start venue in 2001. Thanks to the sports achievements of Frenchman Driss El Himer (2.07.02) and Josphat Kiprono (2.07.06) Amsterdam went up to number 4 on the world’s list of fastest marathon cities, again confirming the Marathon’s growing importance since the late 1990’s.

Read more Haile Gebrselassie sets record at Amsterdam marathon.

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