NAIROBI, November 1 – A product Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, Hosea Rotich’s rise will come full circle when he lines up in New York marathon on Sunday.
In 2006, the 29 year-old stopped the clock at 2:10:18 on his full marathon debut to win the Nairobi Marathon, then in following the tradition of the event, a virtual unknown.
Tomorrow, Rotich will take his place at the starting gun of the ING New York Marathon alongside the crème de la crème of the distance, not as an upstart but carrying the label of a potential banana skin to the top athletes.
Those who he will be casting glances across at the Staten Island start include three previous champions of the ‘Big Apple’ race including the former world marathon record holder, Paul Tergat.
Others are the 2006 champion Marilson Gomes Dos Santos (Brazil) and South African Henrick Ramaala, who topped in 2004.
It all started unravelling for Rotich when he was going about his duties as a forest ranger in Aberdare Forest when he spotted a man illegally felling trees.
Simon Wangai, the culprit on this occasion, fled the scene with Rotich in hot pursuit. But, being a trained distance runner, Wangai knew he could get away.
For almost a kilometre the two raced at top speed through the expansive forest before the ranger was outran. Rotich, though, did not give up. He found out where Wangai lived and, early the next morning, went to see him.
Rotich didn’t leave Wangai’s house until after lunch, by which time they had become friends. Impressed with the ranger’s endurance, Wangai invited Rotich to train with him.
“I decided not to report him but I warned him and told him not to do it again,” Rotich recalled. And he accepted his invitation.
From his first training sessions with Wangai in February 2003, he progressed through cross-country, track running and the half marathon and finally to the dream debut at Stanchart Marathon in 2006.
Thirteenth his second marathon, in Boston 2007, Rotich attributed his poor run to an ankle injury sustained in training, but he bounced back to finish second in the 2007 Frankfurt Marathon (2:08.11) then improved his PR still further in his fourth marathon, placing third in Paris in April (2:07.24).
Rotich is now faster than Wangai, who won the 2008 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, in San Diego, in 2:10.07. “He is very happy because he trained me to run faster than him,” Rotich said. “He is my mentor.”
They rarely train together now because Rotich has returned to his home in Kapsabet, some distance away from Aberdare forest.
Recalling how he had managed to track Wangai down, Rotich said: “I didn’t know his name but I went to the village at the forest and asked for somebody who trained for running. It’s against the law in Kenya to cut down trees. At the time he was not an international runner and he told me he did it to buy shoes and food.”
Although Rotich now trains full-time, he is still employed as a ranger by the Kenya Forest Service.
Before taking up running at 23, he was a keen footballer, representing Samoei High School as a left back.
Samoei also produced the 800m Olympics champion, Wilfred Bungei.
Occasionally, he would be given the chance to show his speed when the team winger was injured or unavailable and he would replace him.
Rotich is a father-of-two and is married to Margaret Rotich. His daughter, Merci, is three and his son Francis is one.
Francis was born one month before Hosea ran in the Frankfurt Marathon and it was after this race that he named his son. “The first four letters are the same – Fran – that is why I chose it. It was my idea,” Hosea said.
For Rotich, the transformation from chasing a lone tree cutter through one of East Africa’s biggest natural forests to the pursuit of honours in the biggest city marathon in the planet (40,000 runners in the main marathon are expected to start) is the stuff fairytales are made off.
Full Name: Hosea Kiprop Rotich
Place of Residence: Kapsabet
Date of Birth: August 2, 1979
Height: 5’8" (173 cm)
Weight: (58 kg)
Hobbies & Interests: Reading Novels, Listening to Music and Studying
Marital Status: Married
Profession: Game Warden
10,000 meters 29:09.50 (altitude)
Marathon 2:10:18 (altitude-debut)
* Won the 2006 Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon in 2:10:18, his debut race at altitude, winning by 3 minutes. Beat known international runners.
ROAD RACE PERFORMANCES
Jan. 29 – Discovery 12K XC – Eldoret, Kenya – 14th – 36:30.26
Mar. 2 – Mdkaim Half-Marathon – Thika, Kenya – 17th – 1:06:20.4
Jun. 6 – Ruringu District T&F Championships 10,000m – 2nd – 29:41.8
Jun. 24 – Ruringu Provincial T&F Championships 10,000m – 2nd – 29:24.6
Jul. 2 – Kenya National T&F Championships 10,000m – Kasarani, Kenya – 10th – 29:09.50
Oct. 29 – Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon– Nairobi, Kenya – 1st – 2:10:18 (CR, PB– debut)
Nov. 2 – Abrah XC – Eldoret, Kenya – 20th – 36:55.62
Nov. 28 – Nyeri Half-Marathon – Nyeri, Kenya – 4th – 1:07:40:55
Nov. 29 – Dedan Kimathi Half-Marathon – Nyeri, Kenya – 4th – 1:07:31