Kenya's Brigid Kosgei set for Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon with one eye on Paris Olympics

Tokyo Games silver medallist leads women’s field during Saturday’s marathon

Kenyan runners Brigid Kosgei, left, and Emily Kipchumba ahead of the Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Brigid Kosgei has her sights set on a place in the 2024 Paris Olympics, with the belief that success in Saturday’s fifth Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon will improve her chances of earning a spot in the Kenyan national team.

The Tokyo silver medallist has a lot to prove after finishing fourth in her first appearance at the New York Marathon, behind compatriots Hellen Obiri (winner) and Sharon Lokedi (third).

Obiri clocked two hours, 27 minutes and 23 seconds as Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey came in between to take second and deny a podium sweep for Kenya last month.

Kosgei was 18 seconds behind the winner but considers that a big improvement after she didn’t finish the London Marathon in April, a race which she had won twice in 2019 and 2020.

“I have had a niggling knee injury that resurfaced in London and then I ran the New York Marathon after a long break. I didn’t do well in that, finishing fourth, and that’s why I came here to win and improve my timing,” Kosgei, who held the women’s marathon world record, told The National.

“So, yes, I got something to prove. I hope I can win a place in the three-member marathon squad for Kenya. That’s why I’m here just over a month after running a tough race like the New York Marathon.”

Kosgei improved on Briton Paula Radcliffe's 16-year-old record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon, winning in two hours 14 minutes and four seconds.

However, that performance was bettered by Ethiopia's Tigst Assefa (2:11:53) at the Berlin Marathon in September.

“The record can be broken again,” Kosgei said. “If not me, someone else would do that. I have been running at the highest level for over six years and I feel I can still improve my personal best time.

“Unlike New York, which is a bit hilly, Abu Dhabi is a nice flat course. So let’s see if I can take advantage of that.

“My intention in Abu Dhabi isn’t the world record, though, but a good time, or perhaps the course record, which can put me in a position to win a spot on the national team for the Olympics.”

Tirunesh Dibaba, who has won three track golds and three bronze across four Olympics from 2008 to 2016, was among Kosgei's challengers in Abu Dhabi.

The Ethiopian was a last minute withdrawal, leaving Kosgei to head the elite women’s field that also includes fellow Kenyans Emily Kipchumba, Aurelia Kiptui, and a host of Ethiopians.

Kosgei has five major marathon titles in her bag. She won the 2018 and 2019 Chicago Marathons, the 2019 and 2020 London Marathons and the 2021 Tokyo Marathon. She won silver in the marathon event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Marathon has been a part of her life. Kosgei's journey began at age 14. With her mother also being a distance runner, she was encouraged to nurture her talent and pursue her career at higher levels. At 17, she began training with her now husband Matthew Kosgei.

“Running came naturally for me. My mum was a distance runner. She couldn’t make it big time but she always encouraged us to pursue full time training and that’s what you see in me now,” Kosgei added.

Kosgei’s younger sister Pamela, 19, is following her path and has already made a name for herself by winning bronze in the World Under 20 Cross Country 3,000-metre steeplechase and African U20 champion.

Updated: December 15, 2023, 9:03 AM