Dutch newcomer wins Utrecht marathon

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Michel Butter from the Netherlands has won this year's 11th edition of the Utrecht marathon. He completed the 42,195k distance, his first marathon, in two hours and 17 minutes. Controversy surrounded the event as the organisers essentially barred Kenyan athletes, winners of many previous editions, from taking part.

The organisers decided only to pay large cash prizes to people who have been asked to take part - and subsequently invited only Dutch nationals. They argued that the fact that the Kenyans win almost every year has had a demoralising effect on Dutch runners.

The overall level of Dutch athletes has gone down since the gap widened between them and foreign competitors from the Horn of Africa. The number of Dutch athletes who can complete a marathon in two hours and 30 minutes, for instance, has dropped considerably in recent years.

In the five main marathons staged in the Netherlands in the past five years, a Belgian won once and an Ethiopian another time, all 23 other marathons were won by Kenyans.

The Utrecht organisers therefore offered 100 euros to a non-invited winner of the event, and 10,000 euros to an invited winner. The measure sparked an outcry in Kenya, where it was seen as sheer discrimination.

Ashamed by his fellow countrymen, a Dutch businessman based in Kenya offered to top up the Utrecht marathon prize money, promising to give 9,900 euros to the non-Dutch winner of this year's Utrecht marathon.

He can keep at least part of the money, because the first Kenyan came in second at Utrecht.  

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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