Series17 Jul 2018

Abel Kirui’s story behind the picture


Abel Kirui celebrates his successful world marathon title defence in Daegu (© Getty Images)

As a two-time world marathon champion, 2012 Olympic silver medallist and former Chicago Marathon winner the exuberant Kenyan marathon star Abel Kirui boasts a long and distinguished career in the sport. Kirui takes time out from his training schedule and casts his mind back to this moment of pure elation moments after securing gold at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu.


“I was World marathon champion in Berlin (in 2009) and my expectation was as the title holder, I wanted to win the World title to confirm to myself I could be a champion once more. My preparations had gone well that year and I was confident I could run well.

“I knew I faced some strong opposition that day. My fellow Kenyans, Vincent Kipruto and Eliud Kiptanui were strong as were the Ethiopians (led by Feyisa Lilesa and Gebregziabher Gebremariam).

“It was a very hot day and I thank God my body did not suffer too much in the conditions. I made my move between 25-30km and opened up a gap on the rest of the field. I had a lot of momentum and power that day. I opened up a lead of almost two-and-a-half minutes (his victory margin of 2:28 from Kipruto, the silver medallist, was the largest in the history of the men’s marathon at a World Championships). When I looked behind me in the final kilometre and I realised nobody was close to me, I could enjoy the final stages of the race.

“The picture is of me dancing after I crossed the line. The dance was not pre-rehearsed, it came to me automatically because I was so happy. I just had a feeling I wanted to dance. As you can see I danced more with my arms because my legs were tired. It was a beautiful moment and I did another dance after I won the Chicago Marathon (in 2016).

“For me retaining my world title was a perfect moment. It proved I could be champion again and that is why I was so happy.”

Steve Landells for the IAAF