Titus Ekiru after winning the Abu Dhabi Marathon (© Alberto Mazzucchelli / organisers)
Judith Jeptum Korir and Titus Ekiru landed a Kenyan double at the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon, winning by significant margins at the World Athletics Elite Label road race on Friday (26).
The heat and humidity put paid to any truly fast times, so the course records remained intact. But Korir and Ekiru maintained their highly consistent career record over the marathon, winning in 2:22:30 and 2:06:13 respectively.
Korir, a former winner in Belgrade, Venice and Izmir, was part of a five-woman pack during the early stages, passing through 10km in 33:24. By the time the half-way point was reached in 1:10:27, just three women – Korir, 2009 world 10,000m bronze medallist Wude Yimer and Olympics seventh-place finisher Eunice Chumba – remained at the front.
Shortly after, Korir started to pull away from Yimer and Chumba. She reached 30km in 1:40:04, almost two minutes ahead of her closest pursuers and still on schedule to break the course record of 2:21:11, and by 40km her lead had grown to almost four minutes.
The conditions finally started to take their toll on Korir in the closing stages as her pace dropped, but by that point she had a comfortable margin and everyone else in the field were similarly feeling the effects of the heat. Korir crossed the line in 2:22:30, smashing her PB by more than four minutes. The 24-year-old, who earlier this year set a half marathon PB of 1:06:24, has now notched up four marathon victories from six races.
Chumba held on for second place in 2:26:01 while Uganda’s Immaculate Chemutai came through to take third in 2:28:30.
Ekiru, who was competing for the first time since setting a world-leading 2:02:57 in Milan in May, set out confidently in the hope that he could challenge the course record of 2:04:40. Once the last of the pacemakers had dropped out at 15km, reached in 44:21, Ekiru upped the tempo and reached the half-way point in 1:01:46 with just defending champion Reuben Kipyego by his side.
The Kenyan duo ran together for a few more kilometres before Ekiru started to run away, and by 30km Ekiru’s lead had grown to about 100 metres. Although Ekiru’s pace dropped in the closing stages, like women’s winner Korir, his lead was insurmountable and he won by more than a minute-and-a-half, crossing the line in 2:06:13. The 29-year-old has now won seven of the eight marathons he has completed.
Tanzania’s 2017 world bronze medallist Alphonce Felix Simbu overtook Kipyego with about four kilometres to go and took second place in 2:07:50. Kipyego held on for third in 2:08:25, finishing 21 seconds ahead of two-time world champion Abel Kirui.
1 Judith Jeptum Korir (KEN) 2:22:30
2 Eunice Chumba (BRN) 2:26:01
3 Immaculate Chemutai (UGA) 2:28:30
4 Abebech Afework Bekele (ETH) 2:29:43
5 Aleksandra Morozova 2:33:01
1 Titus Ekiru (KEN) 2:06:13
2 Alphonce Felix Simbu (TAN) 2:07:50
3 Reuben Kiprop Kipyego (KEN) 2:08:25
4 Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:08:46
5 Felix Kimutai (KEN) 2:10:48