NAIROBI, Kenya, November 5- Less than three years ago, Dennis Kimetto, was a peasant farmer struggling to make ends meet by cultivating and selling maize and potatoes at the local market of the remote Kapng’etuny village deep in the vast Kenyan Rift Valley.
His life however, transformed dramatically when he was persuaded by two-time New York Marathon champion, Geoffrey Mutai to join his training group as one of the pacemakers for the star who had broken into the scene by winning bronze in 10,000m at the 2010 Africa Championships in Athletics held in Nairobi.
“I knew I had talent in running and would do so around the village for fun but I could not sponsor myself to enter races or travel to participate since I was a simple farmer selling few crops in my parent shamba (farm),” Kimetto said.
“It was then Geoffrey approached me and asked me to join his camp and after sometime, he sponsored me with training kit, shoes and money to enter races such as the Kass Marathon and Stanchart Marathon where I won the 10km races. That is where it all started,” the 29 year-old narrated.
Fast forward to 2013 and Kimetto stands as the hottest prospect in men marathon running in the planet courtesy of astounding performances in his first three races at the distance.
Last year, he was escorted to the altar by his mentor, Mutai in Berlin, returning 2:04:16, that ranks among the fastest marathon debuts in history.
He came to his own this year, winning the two World Marathon Majors (WMM) races he took part, the Feb. 24 Tokyo race in 2:06:50 and last month (Oct. 13) he made the world stand and take notice when he tore up the old 2:04:24 Chicago course record to leave the new route best standing at a staggering 2:03:45.
Those jaw-dropping results combined with his forceful front-running have earned him comparisons with four-time Boston Marathon champion and first men’s WMM winner (2006/07) Robert Cheruiyot and his peers have even given him his “Mwafrika” (Swahili language, means African) nickname.
“Yeah,” he chuckles, “They are calling me ‘Mwafrika’ and I wish I get to be as successful as him but my aim is to break the world record before I compete in eight marathons.”
“If all goes according to plan, I will enter the Boston marathon next April and try to win it like Geoffrey (2012) and Robert and later in September, Berlin where I want to try the world record for the first time,” Kimetto disclosed in Eldoret as he continues to recover from his amazing run in Chicago.
Besides Mutai, Wilson Kipsang is another of his training mates and he came to within 22 seconds of breaking the yet to be ratified 2:03:23 world record he set in Berlin barely three weeks earlier.
“To be honest, I was not aware I was in world record pace since no one told us and there was no lead car ahead of us. I don’t know why this happened and I don’t want to speculate but at the end of the race, I had so much energy and when I looked at the clock at the end, I knew a huge chance had passed,” he said.
“Next season, I will train the same while praying to avoid injury so that I can go there knowing what I’m going for. You saw Wilson, even when pacemakers dropped the pace, he took it out on his own since he was prepared for it and he had told us he is going to get it,” the newest marathon phenomenon explained.
“When I saw Dennis win, I felt so happy since his victory was for us all. I assisted him to start his career and sponsored him to local races since if he did well there, then it meant he had the capability to run well abroad,” said Mutai, who held on to his New York title on Sunday in 2:08:24.
“I then introduced him to my manager (Gerard Van Der Veen) who organised races for him abroad and having seen what he did in Chicago, then I’m confident he will bring the world record in future,” said Mutai.
“When you train with guys like Geoffrey and Wilson, you realise there are no jokes involved when aiming for the top. It’s about hard training and a lot of pain to get into shape since there is many talented guys out there,” he said.
“In Chicago for example, I face Emmanuel (Mutai) who had more experience and tough to beat and it’s only because I was sure I was in good shape that I broke away from him in the last two kilometres since I knew I could finishing strongly,” he said of his victory over the 2012 London champion who came second in the fastest ever losing time in a marathon, 2:03:52.
With the Van Der Veen headed Dutch based Volare Sports Management athletes now in custody of the Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York titles, Kimetto is certain the next generation of forceful marathoners will emerge from their group.
“We have some other good upcoming guys whom will be introduced gradually like me so, there are those to take over when our time comes,” Kimetto added.
His other stated big target is to emulate Mutai and bag the 500,000 U.S. dollars WMM jackpot that has just been won by Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede in New York.
“If I win in Boston and Berlin next year and you add Chicago and Tokyo this year, then I will win the Majors. That is enough motivation to train harder than before since I saw what it did to Geoffrey,” he added.