If her recent performances are any indication Eunice Chumba will be odds on favourite to challenge the Blom Bank Beirut Marathon event record when the IAAF Silver Label Road Race kicks off for the 15th year on Sunday 12 November.
The 24-year-old Kenyan, who now represents Bahrain, ran a strong personal best time of 2:24:27 in Rotterdam on 9 April to finish second. Most impressive, however, was her superb victory at the Copenhagen Half Marathon where she knocked almost two minutes off her personal best setting an Asian record of 1:06:11.
Just two weeks ago she shocked most prognosticators with a victory at the Lisbon Half Marathon with a time of 1:08:48. It seems the Beirut event record - 2:29:12 set by Mulahabt Tsega of Ethiopia - and the accompanying bonus is ripe for the picking.
“I'm ready for it,” Chumba declares with justified confidence. “It is my first time in Beirut. I don’t know much about it. I just googled Beirut Marathon and learned more, like the course record time. It depends on weather conditions but my aim is to break the course record.”
The winner receives $10,000 USD but if the finishing time is under 2:28:00 that prize goes up to $15,000 USD. An event record pays another $3,000 USD.
With some changes to the course, including the elimination of a 14% grade climb along the Mediterranean Sea coast, which many runners cursed, it should be more likely to see the record fall. Last year’s champion Tigist Girma has already confirmed she will be back in the Lebanese capital to defend her title. This matchup should prove interesting as Chumba is clearly a tougher opponent than the Ethiopian has faced before.
“I was born in the village of Septonok in Nandi County,” says Chumba, “but since August 2014 I have represented Bahrain.
“My father inspired me to run, he was a runner. He usually encouraged me. For example he used to tell me about (Olympic champion) Eliud Kipchoge and Prisca Jeptoo (a past London and New York winner) because they lived near our village. Because I come from a family where my parents are farmers I hoped one day I would become successful and help my family.”
Although she runs for Bahrain much of her training is completed in Eldoret, Kenya, with her husband and some pacemakers under the watchful eye of coach Nicholas Kipkemoi Kirwa. When she is finished training for the day she enjoys reading novels and watching movies, two pursuits that allow her adequate recovery.
It is apparent that her intense buildup for Beirut is going well as her Lisbon performance indicates.
With time on her side and many more years of running Chumba hopes one day to be ranked amongst the greatest marathoners of all time.
“My target is to run the world record in the half marathon and the marathon,” she says of her ultimate goals. For now she will be content with a victory in Beirut to add to her already impressive curriculum vitae.
Paul Gains (organisers) for the IAAF