Abel Kirui Repeats As World Marathon Champion

Abel Kirui is the repeat marathon champion at the World Championships. Photo: David Monti

He ran the second-fastest winning time despite the heat and humidity.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Abel Kirui is the repeat marathon champion at the World Championships. Photo: David Monti

DAEGU — Kenyan Abel Kirui became only the second man after Spaniard Abel Anton to successfully defend an IAAF world marathon title, running to victory here on Sunday morning by the largest margin in the history of these championships, two minutes and 28 seconds.

Kirui clocked 2:07:38, the second-fastest winning time in an IAAF World Championships behind his own record of 2:06:54 set in Berlin two years ago. Crossing the finish line in downtown Daegu, Kirui spontaneously broke into a dance, reminiscent of the celebration by steeplechase champion and Kirui’s Kenyan teammate Ezekiel Kemboi. “I really say, I am so glad and I rejoice when I was dancing,” Kirui told the media after his victory. “I was rejoicing for my God and rejoicing for my success. Because it was really, really nice for me. I find myself sometimes dancing and rejoicing.”

Kirui, 29, can sometimes be an impatient athlete. Today, he was willing to wait to make his move, but not too long. The nominal leader of a pack of 16 athletes at half-way in a middling 1:05:07, Kirui was getting itchy to increase his pace and whittle down the field. His teammate, Vincent Kipruto, helped him out by throwing in a surge, which quickly cut the pack to ten. “The plan was not to go very slow,” explained Valentijn Trouw, the Dutch agent with Global Sports Communications whose firm manages Kirui, Kipruto and David Barmasai, who was also in the race. “The three of them were in very good shape.”

When Morocco’s Ahmad Baday and Uganda’s Nicholas Kiprono fell back in advance of the 25-K mark, the race was now down to five: Kenyans Kiriu, Kiprono, and Eliud Kiptanui; Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lelisa; and Morocco’s Abderrahime Bouramdane. The five passed through the 25-K point in 1:16:25, covering the previous 5 kilometers in a swift 14:43. But that wasn’t fast enough for Kirui. He took off with a vengeance past 25-K, dropping all of his rivals in a matter of seconds. Trouw said he was a little worried about the move. “We had discussed to move a little bit later,” Trouw said.

Kirui was on fire. He covered the next 5 kilometers in a sizzling 14:18, despite the warm and very humid conditions. “You know, when it comes to the race and you have strong competitors, the run is not only legs it is also with the mind,” Kirui said, pointing to his head. “So, I used also my own calculation with the mind.” His calculations were perfect. He was soon out of sight and spent the next 40 minutes running alone through the streets of Daegu.

Kirui said he liked the three-loop course which he said made the loneliness of the open road seem less daunting. “Actually, always running the loop looks like it is my best choice,” he reasoned. “Also looping in Berlin, four times (at the last world championships). Running the loop is not as tiresome.”

Behind Kirui, a pitched battle was taking place between Kipruto and Lelisa for the silver medal. The pair were dead even through 40-K, when Kipruto decided to test the young Ethiopian. “You know, I knew it because at 40-K I was increasing and he was not coming,” Kipruto said. “I was increasing the pace and he was not coming. He’s not responding. And then I moved.” Kipruto quickly gained firm control of second place, finishing in 2:10:06 with his first championships medal.

Lelisa, whose listed age is only 21, crossed third in 2:10:32 and became the youngest ever marathon medalist in the history of these championships. “I got third and was happy for that,” Lelisa said through his coach, Haji Adilo. “Until 41 kilometers I’m thinking I am second, after 41-K I come to third.”

The medals won by Kirui and Kipruto were the fourth and fifth in the marathon events here (the Kenyan women swept the podium), and gave Kenya a total of 16 medals at these championships, including 7 gold, a record. Kenya handily won the World Cup in 6:29:23, based on the total time of their top three finishers.

Japan was second and Morocco was third. While Kirui had the happiest day here, the biggest disappointment was felt by Ethiopia’s Gebre Gebremariam, the reigning ING New York City Marathon Champion. Just 38 minutes in to the race, Gebremariam slowed down, grabbed the back of his leg, and came to a stop. He then sat down in the roadway, his first world championships as a marathoner finished.

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