With 38,500 deelnemers the AG Antwerp 10 Miles & Marathon has once again staked its claim for the titel of largest running festival in Belgium. Nick Van Peborgh and Lore Tack won the 34th edition of the AG Antwerp 10 Miles. Olympian Willem Van Schuerbeeck and rookie Astrid Verhoeven took the win in the AG Antwerp Marathon.

The marathon runners started at 9:00 on Sunday morning on their 42.195 km journey through the districts of Antwerp. The start was held on the Thonetlaan on Linkeroever with a finish on the Grote Markt across the river Schelde.

A massive 3,200 runners took part, the largest ever number for a marathon in Belgium. Willem Van Schuerbeeck, the 34-year old who represented Belgium at the Rio Olympics, took the win in 2 hours, 21 minutes and 39 seconds. Dutchman Colin Bekers was second over five minutes behind. Adrien Born took third, some 12 minutes in arrears. Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever finished his third marathon in 4:13:57, just half a minute shy of his personal best from two years ago. In the women's race 24-year-old Astrid Verhoeven won the event on her marathon debut. Verhoeven's time was 2:41:18, 27 minutes ahead of second placed Natalie De Ridder.

MASSIVE CROWDS IN SUPPORT

After the extremely warm edition of 2018 this year's event was held in ideal running weather of around 12 degrees. There were no noteworthy medical interventions for the 27,700 participants on the AG Antwerp 10 Miles. Where needed they were kept warm by the fiery support of the many fans on the side of the road. The organisers installed various cheering zones, where the supporters produced plenty of noise.

A few light rain showers couldn't spoil the fun, especially as two tunnel passages through the Kennedy Tunnel and Waasland Tunnel were two major arteries of the course. The heart of the course stayed on Linkeroever with a start on the Thonetlaan and a finish on the Charles De Costerlaan. In the city centre a revised course saw runners cross the Leopold de Waelplaats and pass the Museum of Fine Arts to head into the lively student neighbourhood.

SIX WINS FOR VAN PEBORGH, TACK TAKES MAIDEN VICTORY

The participants started at 14:30 in three waves with the best runners starting on the front row of the first wave. Pre-race favourite Nick Van Peborgh took it easy at the start. "I felt really ill, so I had to take a painkiller at noon," he explained. "But as the race went on my body adjusted to the race pace and I managed to step up a gear. When we turned into Kennedy Tunnel I felt the adrenalin run through my veins. The tunnels and the AG Antwerp 10 Miles as a whole always give me a kick. One by one I managed to overtake my opponents."

Van Peborgh duly took charge of the race at the halfway point, joined by Benoît Goethals. Van Peborgh managed to drop his training buddy at the end. "It's my sixth win in the AG Antwerp 10 Miles, incredible," he continued after setting a time of 48:42. "Maybe tomorrow I'll be back in bed shivering, but it will have been worth it. It's fantastic to win the 10 Miles again." Third place went to Ramdan Snoussi, 43 seconds behind the winner.

The women's race received a first-time winner. Lore Tack took her maiden Antwerp win after 57 minutes and 57 seconds. "It was a super hard, but super nice race," said the Antwerp-based winner, who was joined on the podium by Kim Geypen and Annelies Deketelaere. "I am very happy to be on the top step of the podium in my home city."

RUNNING = TEAM SPORT

Traditionally many Flemish celebrities took part in the event, including Geert Hoste, Joke Van de Velde, Natalia, Sam De Bruyn and several Antwerp city councillors. Former tennis pro Xavier Malisse also joined the cause in a team supporting the cancer charity VZW Stop Darmkanker. Running the AG Antwerp 10 Miles & Marathon has become a true team sport, as proven by 315 company teams. Title sponsor AG Insurance lead the way by fielding a massive 704 participants.

Many Antwerp schools have also made their way onto the entry list with over 100 school teams taking part. Kids between the age 4 and 12 gathered for the Alpro Kids Run, a 1.4 km fun run without timekeeping. Casual runners had the opportunity to tackle the AG Antwerp Short Run 5K. Around 5,200 runners took the short option with 20-year-old Thomas Vanoppen winning the race in 15 minutes and 9 seconds. The fastest woman happened to be Vanoppen's other half, 20-year-old Antse Meylaers, who won in 19 minutes flat.

DOUBLE DATE IN 2020

It was the last time the AG Antwerp Marathon and AG Antwerp 10 Miles took place on the same day. From next year the marathon will move to the autumn. The first edition of the all-new marathon will take place on 12 September 2020 on a brand-new course. The AG Antwerp 10 Miles will keep its traditional April date. Runners and supporters can mark Sunday 26 April on their calendars for the 35th edition.