Titus Ekiru is confident of producing a personal best and a new course-record time in the Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon on Friday.
The Kenyan arrived in the capital having run the fastest marathon of the year, clocking two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds in Milan on May 16. Ekiru, 29, believes he has arrived in great shape and is aiming to become the first athlete to run the marathon in sub-two hour record.
“The objective in Abu Dhabi is to beat my personal best and I am aiming for record time of 2:02:00,” Ekiru told The National during the launch ceremony of the event at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council on Wednesday.
“I have spoken with my running partners about the course in Abu Dhabi and I have been told it’s flat and fast, so I am confident I can achieve this goal.
“Everything from my training and welfare has been very good and gone well this year, and to run the marathon under two hours is certainly on my radar. It’s not something that I plan to achieve in Abu Dhabi, but perhaps under a different setting.”
Eliud Kipchoge, Ekiru’s Kenyan teammate, became the first man to break the two-hour barrier when he ran 1:59:40 at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, but his result was not ratified as an official world record.
Ekiro’s timing at the Milano Marathon placed him in a tie for the fifth-fastest ever run, alongside compatriot Dennis Kimetto.
“To run the marathon under two hours obviously is one of my targets in the foreseeable future,” he said. “This matter is being discussed with the management and to explore the possibility of running at the Chicago and London marathons, among other races in the future.”
Come Friday, Ekiru will be the man to beat in a line-up that also include the defending champion and fellow countryman Reuben Kipyego, who holds the course record in Abu Dhabi with a time of 2:04:40.
Challenging them for the men’s prize are the likes of Abel Kirui, Barnabas Kiptum, Philemon Rono Cherop, Abdi Asefa Kebede, Shumi Dechasa Leche and Thomas Kiplagat.
Eunice Chumba, meanwhile, believes she can make it third-time lucky in the women’s race after finishing runner-up in the inaugural race in 2018 and fourth the following year. The 2020 marathon was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Abu Dhabi is one of my favourite places and it’s so nice feeling to be back after the pandemic,” said the Kenyan-born runner, who finished seventh at the Tokyo Olympics and will be competing under the Bahrain flag in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s my third time here and want to improve my personal best time. This is my first race after the Olympics and I feel I have done enough to be third-time lucky here."
Prior to that, Chumba ran a personal best 2:23:10 in the Milano Marathon to take third spot. Challenging Chumba will be Alemu Megertu and Sharon Cherop, the 2012 Boston Marathon winner who returns for her first marathon nine months after giving birth to twin sons.
The third edition of the race, with a total prize fund of $303,000, consists of a Marathon Relay, 10km, 5km, 2.5km races as well as a wheelchair race for People of Determination.
“The Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon has undoubtedly established itself for its great community value and accompanying events as the ideal competition for top runners from across the world,” Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said.
“As we celebrate the milestone year of the 50th [National Day], we welcome all participants, which sees a capacity 12,000 taking part.”