Eunice Chumba in 'real good shape' for Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon women's title challenge

Reuben Kipyego and Abel Kirui among a strong field of runners in men's section of race which takes place on Friday

After a personal best time and a first appearance at an Olympics, Eunice Chumba believes she is in the form of her life to lift the Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon women’s title.

Chumba was one of the first confirmed runners for Friday’s third edition of the Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon. It will be her third attempt after finishing runner-up in the inaugural year in 2018 and fourth in the following year. The 2020 edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Coming after a taxing marathon run, battling through the intense summer heat at the Tokyo Olympics where she finished seventh, the Kenyan-born runner is confident she will be able to better her personal best time for the second time in the year in Abu Dhabi.

Chumba, 28, ran a personal best two hours 23 minutes and 10 seconds at the Milano Marathon in May to book her place for Tokyo.

“Tokyo was a very exhausting race because of the summer-time weather, and to finish seventh was a pretty decent effort for me in my first Olympics,” Chumba told The National.

“After that I had a break of over two weeks to recover before preparing for Abu Dhabi. I started off with light work and gradually increased to around 180 kilometres a week.

“I feel I’m in real good shape for Abu Dhabi. Obviously you never know what’s around the corner during a marathon with so many good runners in the field. But the objective is very clear - to be third time lucky in Abu Dhabi.”

Chumba was runner-up behind Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh in 2018 and finished fourth behind Kenyan Vivian Kiplagat in the following year in Abu Dhabi.

With none of those who finished ahead of her in Friday’s starting lineup, Chumba has emerged as the favourite for the race that has a $303,000 prize fund.

“I believe the experience of those two races, plus the preparations I have gone through in the last two years ... the expectations are fairly reasonable,” she said of the pressure ahead of the race.

“Obviously there is always pressure when you compete at this level. When I first competed in Abu Dhabi, my objective was always to qualify for my first Olympics. I achieved that.

“That was my dream, and perhaps it’s the dream of any athlete to run in the Olympics. Now I have the objective to win the Abu Dhabi Marathon in my third attempt. I think I’m ready, come Friday.”

Headlining the men’s elite field is Kenyan Titus Ekiru, the fastest marathon runner for the year.

Among the hopefuls are defending Adnoc Abu Dhabi Marathon champion Reuben Kipyego and Abel Kirui, one of the longest serving marathon runners who at 39 remains competitive as ever.

Kirui is a two-time Olympic silver medallist and two-time world champion. He will be aiming for a third appearance at the 2022 World Championships in Oregon, USA.

"It’s my first time in Abu Dhabi and it’s a big opportunity for me. I want to be at the World Championships next year,” the Kenyan said.

“Abu Dhabi has drawn a strong field. It’s a flat and fast track, and I believe everyone will be attempting personal best times in this year-ending marathon.”

The marathon will be flagged off in front of the Adnoc headquarters on the Corniche Road at 5.45am.

The marathon course will pass through iconic landmarks and monuments on the UAE’s capital city, a befitting celebration for the Golden Jubilee Nation Day of the country.

The runners will pass UAE’s giant flagpole, one of the tallest in the world at 122m, the Emirates Heritage Village, then loop around one of Abu Dhabi’s oldest historical stone buildings - Qasr Al Hosn - and the Corniche.

The course is flat and with moderate temperatures at this time of the year, it offers runners a good chance to improve their personal records.

Updated: November 25th 2021, 1:29 PM