Marius Kipserem takes the top spot to win the men’s category of the Abu Dhabi Marathon. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: It was still pitch dark and there was plenty of time before the sun’s first rays fell on the Corniche when Kenya’s Marius Kipserem set off with 40 others from the start line adjacent to the Adnoc headquarters in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Marathon.

But as the sun took centre stage and the warm winds started blowing over the turquoise waters towards the city, Kipserem had zipped past some of the capital’s iconic landmarks had pipped some of the best long-distance athletes in the world, including compatriot and half-marathon world record holder Abraham Kiptum to clinch the top honours.

More importantly, his title had come with a personal best time of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 4 seconds.

“It was a fast course and the race was very good. Very much to my liking and I’m happy to finish with my personal best,” said a delighted Kipserem, who was involved in a tooth-and-nail battle with second-placed Kiptum all the way. Kipserem even lost the lead to Kiptum one kilometre from the finish but responded immediately to regain the lead before he burst away 600 metres from the line.

“I knew we were quite similar in strength and once he over took me, I realised I had to push and gave it everything in the end,” said the 30-year-old, who was winning his seventh marathon in 14 appearances.

“I would rate this as my best win to date as it has come with my personal best time,” added Kipserem, who said he will now need at least a month’s rest to recover before getting back to his training.

“I will be targeting to be 100 per cent again by April,” he said. “You just can’t keep running; the recovery time is important so by April I think I will be ready for my next challenge.” Kipserem, who is yet to figure in an Olympics, added: “For the Olympics, I really have to train harder. Getting into the team is so tough, so we will wait and see how it goes as there is still a lot of time for Tokyo. I will try my best.”

Kipserem was in the breakaway pack of seven runners comprising compatriots Kiptum, Dejene Debela Gonfa, Thomas Rono and Beshah Yersiie Eskezia, along with Ethiopians Stanley Biwott and Abera Kuma.

“I would say I gave it everything and also gave the charge towards the end but Kipserem was too strong today,” said Kiptum, who was followed by Gonfa onto the podium with a time of 2:07.06. However, I’m very happy with the result,”

In the women’s elite category, Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia was the first to the finish with a personal best time of 2:20.17. Bahrain’s Eunice Chumba was second to the tape with a time of 2:20.54, while Ethiopian Getete Burka claimed third.

“The race was very nice and I’m very happy to finish on the podium,” said a jubilant Yeshaneh. “It was my personal best performance. It’s my first time in Abu Dhabi and to win was special on a route that was good for marathon.”

Chumba, speaking about her showing said: “I’m proud and I ran a good time for second place. It was a competitive race and it is my first time in Abu Dhabi. Everyone is very friendly and I am so happy to be here.”