Despite the rain, the 16th edition of the Brussels Airport Marathon & Half Marathon was a spectacular running party again. European Marathon Champion Koen Naert was the main attraction in the half marathon, but he was overtaken by British runner Nick Earl in a close final sprint under the triumphal arches of the Parc du Cinquantenaire. The marathon was won by the Kenyan Michael Chege, and in the women's race Kabi Nassam was the best for a second year in a row.

At 9am on the dot, the marathon runners set off. Their race of 42.195 km took them from the Parc du Cinquantenaire, via the Rue Belliard, Rue de la Loi and Rue Royale in the heart of Brussels to then set course to the Bois de la Cambre and the Tervuren Park. Avenues de Tervueren and Montgomery brought the runners back to the Parc du Cinquantenaire with the finish underneath the majestic triumphal arches. And the triumph went to Michael Chege. The Kenyan won the Brussels Airport Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 53 seconds.

Willem Van Schuerbeeck picked up second place in 2:19:11. Between kilometres 20 and 30, the man from Flemish Brabant was in the lead on his own after a toilet break that cost Chege nearly one minute. However, the Kenyan fought his way back and even caught up with and overtook Van Schuerbeeck in the final stages. Third place went to another Kenyan, Karim Kwemboi (2:32:53). In the women's race, Belgium's Kabi Nassam (2:54:48) was victorious for the second year in a row. The French runner Ludivine Seulin (3:09:11) and Norwegian Inger Marit Valstad (3:10:33) completed the line up with second and third place.

NAERT OVERTAKEN IN THE FINAL STAGES

Koen Naert arrived at the start of the Brussels Airport Half Marathon as the favourite at 10:30am. The man from Bruges, who was crowned European Marathon Champion in Berlin last year, encountered serious opposition from Nick Earl in Brussels. The British runner and the Belgian battled it out in an exciting final sprint, in which Earl was on the winning end. The winner finished in 1:07:16 as against Naert's time of 1:07:18. Sander Heemeryck came third with 1:09:19. The German Sonja Vernikov (1:20:5) was the fastest woman finishing before Czech runner Marketa Marcanikova (1:23:11) and Dutch Myriam Van Roeden (1:28:42).

Next summer, European Marathon Champion Naert is looking to shine in Tokyo's Olympic Marathon. He was happy to fit the Brussels Airport Half Marathon into his busy schedule. "In the final sprint over the wet cobblestones my Achilles were playing up a bit, I have been suffering with it for a while now. Nevertheless, I felt good running and that is the main thing. I am satisfied with my race."

FAMILY RUNNING EVENT

The Brussels Airport Marathon & Half Marathon caters for runners of all levels. It is the family running event par excellence in the capital of Europe. No fewer than 15,000 sports fans ran through the streets of Brussels on Sunday. In addition to the marathon and half marathon, participants could also choose to run a Mini Marathon of 6.5 km, which started at 10am. Children between 4 and 12 could get rid of some energy in the 1km Alpro Kids Run at 11:30am.

Another athlete who is fully preparing for the Tokyo Olympics like Koen Naert is Emma Plasschaert. The yachtswoman, who became World Champion in the Laser Radial class last year, ran the Brussels Airport Mini Marathon (6.5 km). Ex-Miss Belgium Noémie Happart ran the half marathon in 2:11:58. Additionally, TV personality Sieg De Doncker, who was buddy for somebody in a wheelchair, also took part in the Brussels Airport Half Marathon; the impressive duo finished the race in a great time: 2:21.46.

RACE FOR THE CURE

This year, the Mini Marathon was associated with the Race for the Cure, this is the biggest event in the world fighting breast cancer. Originally, the Race for the Cure was going to take place in the Bois de la Cambre on Sunday 29th September, however, they were forced to postpone the Think Pink running and walking event due to the adverse weather predictions one week ago.

It did not take long before a solution was found though. The decision was made very quickly to integrate the Race for the Cure in the Brussels Airport Marathon & Half Marathon. This allowed the Race for the Cure runners to enjoy the beautiful course of the Parc du Cinquantenaire, through the Rue Belliard, around the Royal Park and along the palace, back to the Park du Cinquantenaire together with the participants of the Mini Marathon. A solution was also found for the walkers who had registered for the Race for the Cure: they were able to start their short 3 km walk in the Parc du Cinquantenaire at 10am.

INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPANTS

Every year, the Brussels Airport Marathon & Half Marathon elicit an ever greater international response . For this 16th edition, participants from no fewer than 105 countries appeared at the start. One third of all participants do not live in Belgium. The Brussels Airport Marathon & Half Marathon are particularly popular in our neighbouring countries considering the large number of French, Dutch, German and British runners who put on their running shoes in the capital of Europe on Sunday.

"We are proud to have once again been the sponsor of an event that attracts runners of every level and from every corner of the world", says Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company. "With 15,000 runners at the starting line, the Brussels Airport ,Marathon & Half Marathon 2019 was yet another huge success. The Brussels Airport Community too was well represented: no less than 388 runners from 13 different airport companies defended the colours of Brussels Airport. They all gave it their very best and contributed to the smooth running of this edition, which paid special attention to waste management and prevention. An awareness-raising campaign that is very dear to us."

ECO MEASURES

The organisation of the Brussels Airport Marathon & Half Marathon made even greater efforts than ever before for the 16th edition to become an even more ecological event. Thanks to numerous measures for participants and supporters, the total amount of waste was halved. For instance, no bottled water was supplied or distributed along the course and plastic disposable cups were banned from the route and the finish.