NAIROBI, Kenya, September 23- Sitting at his home in Iten looking relaxed in his farm, Wilson Kipsang blends well with the quiet village life far removed from the global spotlight of his bid of becoming only the third Kenyan to set the world marathon record.
In 2011, he fell only four seconds short of equalling the 2:03:38 ran by compatriot Patrick Makau only three weeks earlier in the streets of Berlin that remains the standard over the ultimate distance for men.
“When I was preparing for Frankfurt that year, I was targeting to run under 2:03:59 that was the world record set by Haile Gebrselassie then and when I ran 2:03:42, that is what I had trained for and I achieved.
“I had not thought that Makau could break the record but I’m happy I came close to what he had run. This year, I have prepared well to run under 2:03:38 if all conditions are perfect and the weather is between ten and 19 degrees,” the London Olympics bronze winner said as he settled down for the interview with two of his dairy cows in the background.
“You see those,” he stated pointing at the grazing bovines, “You need them as an athlete since buying milk in Kenya has become very expensive and a runner needs so much milk,” Kipsang stated in reference to the escalating cost of the product in his home nation due to the hike of Value Added Tax by the Government.
Milk issues aside, the 2012 London Marathon winner narrated the eight month journey he has taken to get ready for the Sept. 29 Berlin race where he hopes to emulate countrymen Paul Tergat (2003/2:04:55) and Makau as the acclaimed Kenyan holders of the men’s marathon world record.
Compatriot Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02/2011) ran faster in Boston but the course is not a certified world record course owing to its elevation drop.
“To get ready for Berlin, I have used about 40 other athletes to train, some every day and others when we are doing hill run. After the sessions, I take them to a hotel and pay for tea or lunch.
“For some, I provide running gear and accommodation and in all, preparing for a race like Berlin can see a top runner using about USD 5,724.10 (Ksh500,000),” he explained the rigors involved in getting to top shape.
“You use the athletes as pace makers, some to run up to 15km, others 20Km, others 35Km and the rest to finish when doing a 45Km work-out for example. When doing speed work on the track, you require others to pace you through the intervals,” Kipsang, a Kenya Police officer who served for three years at different stations until his career took off told.
Having opted out of the World Championships in Moscow due to what he termed as the flawed selection process by Athletics Kenya (AK), Kipsang who finished fifth (2:07:47) in his London defence in April embarked on getting ready for his world record quest.
To aid in the achievement of his objective, the 31 year-old has enlisted the services of his own pace maker, Edwin Kiptoo, his main training partner for Berlin, a request that was accepted by organisers.
“I’m sorry to say so but some elite runners interfere with pace making for their own selfish ends and to spoil for others. It happened in London this year when after agreeing on the pace; some athletes pushed the pacemakers so much.
“Between the 20km to 25km split, the pace was well below the world record and this is not what we had discussed and agreed. I’m bringing Edwin because I trust him and he knows how I run. He can tell when I want to pick up the pace or drop it,” he disclosed.
“I admit I had not trained well on my speed work ahead of London since there was too much rain and we have no tartan track in the whole Rift Valley region but I believe had we stuck to the agreed pace, I would have finished higher than fifth so this time, I’m not taking chances.”
With Makau out of Berlin due to knee injury, Kipsang maintains his record bid will not be any easier.
“Even without Makau, we have a 2:05 guy in Eliud Kipchoge and Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor who has broken 59:00 in Half Marathon as well as Ethiopians who can be fast as well.
“So, it will not make any difference Makau will not run and we can only wish him a quick recovery since I know how it feels to be injured ahead of an important race.”
Breaking the world record would in essence, restore Kipsang’s billing as the top ultimate distance runner having missed the Olympics crown last year when installed as everyone’s favourite.
“I know people wondered why I went out so fast but I was feeling very comfortable with that pace since I had trained well. But the course had many turns and sharp corners and that took its toll on me in the latter stages of the race.
“When I could not go on, I was discussing with (compatriot) Abel Kirui who should go and when Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) saw us do that, he moved forward and at that stage, it was difficult to catch him. Had we stuck together, he would not have made that move since he was prepared for bronze at most silver,” the London bronze winner offered on the surprise win of Uganda’s Kiprotich who upstaged the fancied Kenyans.
“The good thing about that is it motivated me to target the world record in Berlin and it is my prayer that on the day, all I have invested in getting ready will be paid but you never know, other factors like the weather could work against you for instance, rain and too much headwind.”
With that, Kipsang retreated for deserved rest having completed another punishing long run that morning and as he ushered the crew interviewing him, his parting shot was, “I wish this was all over.”