Running in only his second international marathon, the 23-year-old was supposed to be the pacemaker for the first 30km of the race for fellow Kenyan Dickson Chumba.
However, after Chumba withdrew due to injury after 10km, Kipyego continued to set the pace and won in a personal-best time of 2:04.40.
Reflecting on the race, Kipyego, who earned $100,000 for the victory, told The National: “Dickson suffered an injury and when he got out of the race I decided to just keep running. I felt good until I reached the 35km mark.
“It started to become a bit harder but when I looked over my shoulder, I didn’t see anyone close to challenge me. I thought this was an opportunity. That pushed me all the way to the finishing line.
“Obviously it’s a life changing experience for me. I’m aware it is a rare feat to win after starting the race as a pacemaker. That said I wouldn’t want to be carried away from the success I enjoyed today. I want to be myself and keep working hard as ever to build on what I achieved here in Abu Dhabi.”
While unusual, Kipyego's feat is not a first. American pacemaker Paul Pilkington won the Los Angeles Marathon in 1994, while Kenya's Simon Biwott accomplished the same feat at the Berlin Marathon in 2000.
“The success in the race, the prize money and the spotlight that followed hasn’t still sunk into me because I wasn’t expected to win,” added Kipyego.
“It is hard for me to answer any questions so soon because I have never been in this situation before. Having said that I feel good. It’s an opportunity to build on from now on.
“At the same time, I want to be myself and keep my feet firmly on the ground. I have to be realistic in my life. I’ll take a short break when I get back home and discuss my plans for next year. Almost certainly I want to be back in Abu Dhabi for my title defence."