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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Ababel Yeshaneh targets return to Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon in 2019 after storming to inaugural title

Ethiopian runner, a half marathon specialist, smashed her personal best by nearly 13 minutes to win the women's title

Ababel Yeshaneh has said a return to the Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon next year will be a top priority after the Ethiopian won the inaugural title in spectacular style on Friday.

Yeshaneh, 27, claimed the women’s title with a time of two hours, 20 minutes and 16 seconds, smashing her previous personal best of 2:33:10, set at the Milan Marathon in 2013, by nearly 13 minutes. Yeshaneh won the race in the capital by 38 seconds over runner-up Eunice Chumba, and three minutes and 51 seconds ahead of third-placed Gelete Burka.

Yeshaneh’s performance is even more remarkable for the fact that she is more of a half-marathon specialist. Her only marathon since Milan five years ago came in Dubai earlier this year, but she did not finish that race.

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While largely prioritising half marathons, Yeshaneh plans to return to Abu Dhabi in 2019 having been impressed with her experience of the inaugural race.

“My coach decides on my races and I’ll leave it for him to decide, but the marathon in Abu Dhabi will be a priority when we discuss the plan for next year,” she told The National through a translator after Friday’s race.

“This is my first visit to Abu Dhabi and it turns out to be a beautiful city for a marathon. The weather was perfect, spectacular scenery and the hospitality was excellent.

“This time my coach pushed me to do the marathon in Abu Dhabi. Obviously a lot of preparations were made and the end result has been really amazing.”

Having begun her 2018 season with her unsuccessful trip to Dubai in January, Yeshaneh bounced back to win successive half marathon titles in Istanbul and Yangzhou, both in April, before a runner-up finish in Copenhagen in September and fifth-place in New Delhi a month later.

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See what it's like to run the Abu Dhabi marathon

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She also won a silver medal in the 10,000-metres Cape Elizabeth Beach to Beacon race in the United States in August.

Like many Ethiopian long-distance runners, Yeshaneh was first exposed to the sport while watching people around her town take part in amateur races.

“Then I saw races on TV and that’s the time I started to understand and wanted to do it myself,” she said. “My father asked me if I would like to become an athlete and then he helped me to start running every morning. Then I started to compete at school and was successful.”

Yeshaneh began training professionally at the age of 16 over the 1,500m distance and quickly progressed to faster times and longer distances. She represented her country in the 10,000m at the 2013 World Championships, finishing ninth. The following year, she won silver at the African Cross Country Championship.

“That’s how it all began for me,” said Yeshaneh who revealed her 15-year-old sister, Mesret, is also taking a similar path in athletics.

“She is competing over the 1,500m distances and I hope she can one day be successful like me, if not better, because she had a better idea in terms of both the training and competitions.”