NAIROBI, Kenya, October 30- For eight years, Wesley Kibet had tried to earn a decent living as an athlete but found his talent not adequate enough to crack the big time but to his credit, he never gave up chasing his dream to excel as a runner.
His dogged determination was finally rewarded on Sunday when he put together the race of his life to win the men’s title during the Stanchart Nairobi International Marathon after two previous attempts failed to land him in the limelight.
“I had no job to do to feed my family or make a big change in my life and that is why I decided to look for the money these guys (athletes) make abroad,” the 32-year-old said after racing to the event’s course record of 2:10:40 on an overcast morning in the Kenyan capital.
His perseverance and decisive break two kilometres from the end from closest challengers Abraham Keter (2:10:50) and 2009 champion, Moses Kigen (2:11:05) earned him 17,585 US dollars (Sh1.5m) in prize money plus a course record bonus of 2,931 dollars (Sh250,000) as he obliterated the previous route best of 2:10:54 ran last year by Ernest Kebenei.
“God gave me the strength to win and now, I can afford to train better for bigger races, nothing can stop me now, I will train for bigger wins,” the elated victor said.
“After we ran for two hours, I went forward and he (Kigen) followed me and I thought he would win the race. The former winner was also behind me and I was afraid of him but I felt stronger as we came for the finish and decided to take my chance and it paid off,” he added.
The freshly minted champion paid glowing tribute to his spouse and mother of 4 after becoming the tenth different winner of the race that was marking its tenth anniversary.
“I wish to thank my wife who has stuck patiently with me for all those years and believing that one day it would work out. It has not been easy for her and our children and she has gone through a lot and now, I’m a winner,” Kibet gushed.
He started competing in 2004 and in 2009, he had the opportunity to travel to Germany for a number of road races that did not go according to plan and he was promptly dumped by his manager.
“Before turning to athletics, I was doing some farming but it was going nowhere,” the athlete who trains in Kericho under his coach, Edward Muge, a former runner.
In 2010, he was ranked 200th in 2:27 and a year later, he finished 51st in 2:19 before it all opened up for him on Sunday in an event that met the organizer’s target of having 20,000 participants pour into the streets of the capital.
“Every time, I would go back to train and improve on where I went wrong and I’m glad the weather was overcast since I train under the same conditions in Kericho so I had a good race.”
Apart from bidding to be the first repeat winner of the event next year, Kibet is also hoping that his victory will open up doors in other international races.
“With this victory, my name has become known and I’m looking forward to getting a manager who can organize races for me to compete outside the country. That is why I stuck to training here so that I can get noticed,” the winner stressed.
For Salome Jerono Biwott, winning the women’s 42km race alongside the 17,585 dollars (Sh1.5m) purse came as a welcome surprise for her.
“We pushed the pace from the half way mark and when we got to 32km, I decided to pick up the pace again and I found out that I was running alone. I was not planning to break away from the field but when they slowed down, I took my chance,” said Jerono, who clocked 2:26:41 for the victory.
The 30-year-old is now looking forward for a well earned rest following her crushing victory before resuming training in January after adding the Nairobi title to her Kassel (May) and Helsinki ( August) marathon wins earlier this year.
She lowered her career best from 2:35:23 she posted in Kassel by almost ten minutes in another personal triumph.
The Nairobi event is among the nine Stanchart sponsored marathons around the world that include the lucrative Dubai and Hong Kong races.