Pacer Wins Abu Dhabi Marathon by 2 Minutes, Takes Home $100,000
Though he was supposed to drop out at 30K, Reuban Kipyego went on to break the tape in 2:04:40.
Reuban Kipyego took his pacing duties an unexpected step further when he won the Abu Dhabi Marathon on Friday, December 6.
As the designated runner who was tasked with pacing the elite field through a specific point in the race, the 23-year-old Kenyan was expected to drop out around 30K. But Kipyego kept running all the way through the finish line, breaking the tape in a time of 2:04:40.
The pacemaker turned champion beat runner-up Joel Kimurer by a minute and 41 seconds. As the marathon champion, Kipyego earned $100,000 in prize money.
“I was setting the pace for the first 30K feeling very good, and when I turned back to see that the pack was not close behind, I decided that I was going to push to the finish line,” Kipyego told race organizers after his victory.
Kipyego ran faster for the second half of the race after leading the field through 13.1 miles in 1:02:54. The performance improves on his previous personal best of 2:05:18 from a runner-up finish in his debut at the Buenos Aires Marathon on September 22.
The women’s race was won by fellow Kenyan Vivian Kiplagat who finished in 2:21:11, a personal best by over a minute.
Though his action was rare, Kipyego was not the first pacemaker to keep running all the way through the finish line.
In 1994, Paul Pilkington was hired as the rabbit to lead the elite field through 15.5 miles of the Los Angeles Marathon, but he continued on for the entire 26.2, winning the race in 2:12:13. Simon Biwott was supposed to lead the runners through 28K of the 2000 Berlin Marathon, but he ended up leading right through the line, winning in 2:07:42.
In his second pro race, Geoffrey Ronoh upset then-world record-holder Wilson Kipsang at the 2014 Olomouc Half Marathon. Instead of stopping at 10K, the pacemaker won in a course record 1:00:17.
For runners who are on the bubble of winning podium prize money, signing on to be a pacemaker in a large race is an easy way to earn guaranteed payment. While they are expected to drop out before the race ends—and most do—they are allowed to finish the race if they choose to.
“For me, the conditions were ideal and the course was beautiful,” Kipyego told the race organizers. “I’m already looking forward to returning to Abu Dhabi to defend my title.”
posted Saturday December 7th