Marius Kipserem Upsets Half Marathon WR Holder Abraham Kiptum at Inaugural Abu Dhabi Marathon, But Was The Course Short?

December 7, 2018

Forty days after he set the half marathon world record with a 58:18 clocking in Valencia, Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum was unable to pick up the biggest marathon win of his career this morning (Thursday evening in the US) as he surprisingly was outkicked in the final stages of the inaugural ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon by 2016 Rotterdam winner Marius Kipserem, also of Kenya. Kipserem won in a big pb of 2:04:04* (previous pb of 2:06:11) to Kiptum’s 2:04:16 (pb as well — previous pb of 2:05:26) and took home $100,000 for the victory.

*Note: See the bottom of this article. We have doubts about the course being the proper distance.

kipserem-abu-dhabiThe Race
The weather was warm (over 70 degrees Fahrenheit 40 minutes into the race, with a dew point of 61 according to but the pace started fast as expected nonetheless. Nine men were in the lead pack at halfway (62:30), but not among them was Emmanuel Mutai, as the 2:03:13 performer was dropped before the 10-mile mark.

By 30k (1:28:42), the lead pack was down to five, but soon — just before the 1:30 mark — it became a two-person race between Kipserem and Kiptum.

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Those two would run close together until the very end of the race. And for virtually the entire time, Kiptum was running just behind Kipserem, except for a brief period of around 30 seconds when Kiptum moved up alongside Kipserem. When would “the move” be made?

Not until just before the 2:02:00 mark. Kiptum went to the lead and quickly got a gap of a few meters on Kipserem. We imagine many watching it live assumed the half marathon WR holder would cruise to victory. But the gap never got very big and suddenly it looked like Kiptum put on the brakes as he was unable to break Kipserem. But Kiptum had no chance to regroup and try to make another move, for just as Kiptum slowed down, Kipserem made his own move and Kiptum had no response.

Forty-four years after Muhammad Ali had his Rope a Dope moment in boxing, marathoning had its own version of it as Kipserem cruised to a lucrative $100,000 victory.

Quick Take: This was easily the biggest win of Kipserem’s career.

Kipserem (r) and Kiptum (l) after the race Kipserem (r) and Kiptum (l) after the race

Kipserem, 30, certainly wasn’t a marathon neophyte as today’s race was his 16th marathon finish. He’s ended up in the winner’s circle in seven of those races, but most of them were second- or third-tier marathons as this was just his second win with a winning time under 2:09 (the other being 2016 Rotterdam, where he ran his 2:06:11 pb).

*Quick Take: We aren’t convinced 100% these times are legit. We think the course was mismeasured.

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We greatly enjoyed watching the first edition of this marathon. There was a big purse ($100,000 for the win), some big names, the coverage featured no commercials, the shots of the Abu Dhabi skyline were spectacular, and the end of the men’s race was wildly entertaining, but…and it’s a big but…

When we saw the winning time, 2:04:04, it made no sense. The guys hit halfway in 62:30 and were on basically 2:04-high to 2:05-flat pace up until 30k. And yet we’re supposed to believe they ran a 61:34 second half in low-70-degree weather with the sun out (the race started in darkness at 6 a.m.) without rabbits (there were rabbits probably through 25 or 30k). And check out the official individual splits for Kipserem.

According to the race timing site, Kipserem actually ran the first half in 62:35 (the TV clock was roughly five seconds off, it appears, as it showed 62:30 at halfway and 2:04:00 at the finish) and the second half in 61:29 so it’s even more egregious than we thought. But the biggest thing is Kipserem ran the 5k from 30 to 35k in 13:55 — that is 1:57:27 pace and is easily the fastest split in the second half of a marathon or on a flat marathon course (the lead men did go out in 13:48 for the first 5k this year in London, but that featured a big downhill while Abu Dhabi is flat). No, he and Kiptum weren’t waging some epic battle between 30 and 35k for the $100 grand. Kiprotich was sitting on him. If you don’t believe us, check out the splits of the women’s winner Ababel Yeshaneh (2:20:16). The similarly show an egregious split of 15:55 (that’s 2:14:19 pace) between 30 and 35k.


(One note about the women’s splits. Clearly the half marathon time is listed wrong. At 20k, they were on 70:21 half pace).

Ok, one could argue the all of the splits at the beginning of the race were long and the 5k between 30 and 35k was short, which means the whole thing could still be the proper 42.2k, but we think that’s highly unlikely. We know one thing. Based on the fact the splits above defy credibility, we have zero confidence right now the marathon was the proper distance.

Update: Here is an update on the course being short:German Expert Believes The Abu Dhabi Marathon Was Between 120 and 130 Meters Short

Talk about the race on our world famous fan forum/messageboard: MB: Official 1st Ever Abu Dhabi Marathon Discussion Thread – Abraham Kiptum goes for some BIG BUCKS! (tonight 9 pm ET)

The lead pack in the first half The lead pack in the first half

abu-dhabi-flag abu-dhabi-skyline abu-dhabi-2018b

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