Two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui targets 2023 worlds in Fukuoka

Kenyan athlete Abel Kirui poses during a photocall ahead of the 2017 London Marathon. [File, Standard]

Two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui is determined to perform well at the Fukuoka Marathon on December 4.

He beams with determination and sheer hard work to excel and an invite to 2023 London Marathon in April.

Kirui, an Assistant Superintendent of Police based in Mombasa, has won World Championships marathon contests twice -Berlin (2009) and Daegu in 2011.

He said. "I have prepared well. My training has not been easy. Last week, I did a 2:11 in 42km at a high altitude and that tells you how prepared I am. I will use the Fukuoka Marathon to prepare well for the London Marathon next year, which I hope will help me earn a call up to the national team to the World Championships (in Budapest, Hungary) next year. I have not performed well in the London Marathon and that is still part of my dream.

"If I miss a slot in the World Championships, I will not give up but will keep the fire burning. I need to get back to the Olympic Games (in 2024 Paris) and perhaps improve on the silver I won at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

"I know it is not an easy task but I will soldier on. I am determined to do well. I failed to perform at the Barcelona Marathon in May, where I finished eighth with 2:07.25. I was nursing an injury. I thank God I finished the race," he said.

The last born in a family of four developed interest in athletics while a pupil at Simatoi Primary School in Nandi South, participating in 1,500 metres.

"I used to admire Paul Tergat (former world marathon record holder). I could write in marker pen the name 'Tergat' in my school games T-shirt and longed that one day I would be like him," said Kirui.

Kirui will lead a strong Kenyan squad that has defending champion Michael Githae, Kenneth Keter, Silas Too, James Gitahi and debutant Vincent Raimoi.

Kirui, 40, with a personal best of 2:05:05, faces stiff opposition in the Japanese city. Kirui will seek redemption after a string of dismal shows in recent races, having finished 11th at the 2021 Milan Marathon in 2:06.52.

Kirui said he has what it takes to win the race despite the tough challenge. "Marathon running is never easy but I have had good preparations and I am looking forward to having a good outing," added Kirui.

Keter has a personal best of 2:06:05 set at the 2021 Amsterdam Marathon, where he finished eighth while Too has a Personal Best of 2:06:32 posted in the Eindhoven Marathon last year.

James Gitahi, who finished third last year in a time of 2:08:25, will be aiming to go two places better this time around. Last year's winner Michael Githae will be aiming to defend the crown he won last year when he clocked 2:07:51. Githae finished 11th at the Tokyo Marathon in March this year in 2:07:55 and won silver at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last August.

Vincent Raimoi, who boasts a personal best time of 59.51 in half marathon set in 2020 Ras El Khaimah Marathon in United Arab Emirates where he wound up fifth, will make his marathon debut in the full marathon. Teshager Yegzaw and Yemane Tsegaye will lead Ethiopian charges.

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