Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon: Pacemaker Reuban Kipyego's life is changed by stunning victory
Kenyan storms to victory after Dickson Chumba forced to pull out
Reuban Kipyego returns to his native Kenya with his name engraved on the Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon Roll of Honour list and with his biggest pay cheque of US$100,000 (Dh 367,000).
Kipyego sped to an incredible victory despite only starting the race as the intended pacemaker for fellow Kenyan Dickson Chumba.
It was only Kipyego’s second ever international marathon after finishing second behind compatriot Evans Chebet at the Buenos Aires Marathon in September.
“The success in the race, the prize money and the spotlight that followed hasn’t still sunk into me because I wasn’t expected to win,” Kipyego told The National.
“It is hard for me to answer any questions so soon because I have never been in this situation before. Having said that I feel good. It’s an opportunity to build on from now on.
“At the same time, I want to be myself and keep my feet firmly on the ground. I have to be realistic in my life. I’ll take a short break when I get back home and discuss my plans for next year.
“Almost certainly I want to be back in Abu Dhabi for my title defence. The next race, perhaps, may be the 2020 Milan Marathon (on April 5). This is what I can say for now.”
Kipyego will receive a lot more respect form his peers as a marathon runner. The runner up in the race Joel Kimurer was the first to acknowledge it.
“This guy showed incredible speed in the second half of the marathon,” the 31-year-old Kimurer said.
“I tried my best to get closer to him but he was just too good. Reuban has shown us he has immense potential as a young long distance runner. He’s got many years ahead of him and if he continues with the same work he can make it big time.”
Kipyego arrived in Abu Dhabi as a pacemaker for Chumba and his job was to run ahead of him for the first 30 kilometres of the race.
However, Chumba pulled out after 10km but Kipyego continued to set the pace, which he did remarkably well, and crossed the finishing line first in a personal best time of 2hrs 04min 40sec.
“Dickson suffered an injury,” Kipyego said. “When he got out of the race I decided to just keep running. I felt good until I reached the 35km mark.
“It started to become a bid harder but when I looked over my shoulder, I didn’t see anyone close to challenge me. I thought this was an opportunity. That pushed me all the way to the finishing line.
“Obviously it’s a life changing experience for me. I’m aware it is a rare feat to win after starting the race as a pacemaker.
“That said I wouldn’t want to be carried away from the success I enjoyed today. I want to be myself and keep working hard as ever to build on what I achieved here in Abu Dhabi.”
Kipyego is the eldest of four boys and two girls, and part of his earnings from the Abu Dhabi marathon will be spent on the family.
“I’ll bank the cash first,” he said with smile. “I’ll spend some on my family. Then it will be back to work preparing for next year.”
Vivien Kiplagat, 28, lived up to her top billing by taking the women’s race in a personal best time of 2:21:11 and with it the $100,000 prize that was on offer.
She broke away from the group straightaway and then maintained her position in the front all the way to the end. She said: “My objective was to run 2:20 but it was still a personal best time and I’m glad of the day’s work."
Updated: December 8, 2019 09:34 AM