Reuben Kipyego wins the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon (© Organisers)
Reuben Kipyego and Vivian Kiplagat will defend their ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon titles on Friday (26), but the Kenyan duo will face a strong line-up at the World Athletics Elite Label road race.
When the Abu Dhabi Marathon last went ahead in 2019, Kipyego was initially enlisted as a pacemaker but he went on to triumph in 2:04:40, a PB at the time. He went on to reduce that to 2:04:12 in Valencia exactly one year later and then to 2:03:55 in Milan earlier this year where he finished second.
Titus Ekiru was the winner on that occasion, clocking a world-leading 2:02:57 to move to equal fifth on the world all-time list. Ekiru, who hasn’t raced since his Milan victory, will renew his rivalry with Kipyego, who last month placed eighth at the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:24.
Aside from having the fastest PB of the field, Ekiru is also a formidable competitor, having won five of the six marathons he’s completed to date.
Barnabas Kiptum, who finished third behind Ekiru and Kipyego in Milan, will also be in Abu Dhabi. He clocked a PB of 2:04:17 in the Italian city six months ago and will also arrive in the UAE capital on fresh legs.
Although he doesn’t have as many career marathon victories as Ekiru, Kiptum is extremely consistent and has finished in the top five in all of his last 14 marathons.
Two-time world champion Abel Kirui can never be discounted. More than 12 years have passed since his first World Championships victory, but the 39-year-old Kenyan came within one second of his PB last year, clocking 2:05:05 in Valencia.
Three-time Toronto Marathon winner Philemon Rono and 2017 world bronze medallist Alphonce Felix Simbu of Tanzania are also ones to watch, as is Oqbe Kibrom Ruesom, who will be keen to reclaim the Eritrean record, having recently surrendered it to Hizkel Tewelde.
Vivian Kiplagat’s 2:21:11 clocking from her 2019 Abu Dhabi victory still stands as her PB. The 30-year-old Kenyan was on course to break that at last month’s Chicago Marathon, passing through the half-way point in second place in a swift 1:08:50, but she faded in the closing stages and eventually finished fifth in 2:29:14.
Having had almost seven weeks to recover, Kiplagat – who set a half marathon PB of 1:06:07 in September – will aim to retain her Abu Dhabi title and improve on the course record she set two years ago.
Alemu Megertu’s PB is just one second faster than Kiplagat’s, making her the fastest woman in this year’s field. The Ethiopian’s only outing in 2021 was a 13th-place finish in London in 2:27:18, having passed through half way in 1:08:52 – almost identical to Kiplagat’s equivalent split in Chicago. A better-paced effort from both women could result in an enthralling duel.
Eunice Chumba may not have the fastest PB of the field, but the Bahraini is a smart racer. She finished second in Abu Dhabi in 2018 and fourth in 2019, while this year she clocked a PB of 2:23:10 in Milan and finished seventh at the Olympic Games.
Others to watch out for include 2011 world bronze medallist and 2012 Boston Marathon champion Sharon Cherop, 2014 Houston and Rotterdam winner Abebech Afework, 2014 Amsterdam champion Betelhem Moges and 2009 world 10,000m bronze medallist Wude Ayalew Yimer, the runner-up in Abu Dhabi two years ago.
Megertu Alemu Kebede (ETH) 2:21:10
Vivian Kiplagat (KEN) 2:21:11
Sharon Cherop (KEN) 2:22:28
Sintayehu Lewetegn (ETH) 2:22:45
Eunice Chumba (BRN) 2:23:10
Abebech Afework Bekele (ETH) 2:23:33
Betelhem Moges (ETH) 2:23:38
Monica Jepkoech (KEN) 2:23:59
Wude Ayalew Yimer (ETH) 2:24:03
Letebrhan Haylay (ETH) 2:24:47
Judith Korir (KEN) 2:26:52
Nurit Shimels (ETH) 2:27:40
Immaculate Chemutai (UGA) 2:29:09
Almaz Gelana (ETH) 2:29:59
Titus Ekiru (KEN) 2:02:57
Reuben Kipyego (KEN) 2:03:55
Barnabas Kiptum (KEN) 2:04:17
Philemon Rono (KEN) 2:05:00
Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:05:04
Oqbe Kibrom Ruesom (ERI) 2:05:53
Thomas Kiplagat (KEN) 2:06:00
Hicham Laqouahi (MAR) 2:06:32
Asefa Bedada (ETH) 2:06:39
Abdi Asefa (ETH) 2:06:43
Shumi Dechasa (BRN) 2:06:43
Victor Kipchirchir (KEN) 2:07:39
Alphonce Felix Simbu (TAN) 2:08:27
Alemu Gemechu (ETH) 2:08:47
Felix Kimutai (KEN) 2:09:23