Athletics Athletics

Makau’s moment of truth arrives


NAIROBI, Kenya, September 23- On the opening day of the World Championships in Daegu, the World Marathon Majors (WMM) held a high profile reception as the women’s 42km race unfolded below.

In that room, race directors of the five elite events that constitute the WMM races, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York were present in addition to top athletes’ representatives.

In short, the gathering at the reception held at the third floor of the five-star Novotel Hotel in Daegu represented the corridors of power in distance running and among them was Zane Branson, one of the eminent agents.

Capital Sport engaged him in about one of his star runners, Patrick Makau Musyoki, who faces another decisive moment in his career on Sunday when he lines up to defend his Berlin Marathon title.

“He has been training hard and everything has gone on well. Moreover, he is focused on the task ahead,” Branson asserted.

Earlier, we caught up with Makau in his training base in Ngong’s Maasaini area some 40km from Nairobi, an expanse of hills and rough terrain where runners share the surrounding environment with animals on occasion during their intense work outs.

“I have recovered after London and my aim is to defend my title,” Makau asserted. The question of a world record attempt was not far in coming and to this he replied.

“Eventually, the record will return to Kenya. Everyone saw how Geoffrey Mutai ran in Boston (2:03:02) and although they did not recognise it, it is clear we are soon going to own it. For me, the most important thing is to race well since I will be defending and then, anything can happen if I’m in a good position.”

Makau, who burst to prominence in 2007 when he won the first of his two silver medals at the World Half (then Road Running) Championships in Udine, Italy, has his work cut out in his quest for Berlin glory.

He faces the biggest stumbling block for many Kenyans who have sought distance running honours in the shape of World marathon record holder and four-time Berlin winner, Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrsellasie, the acclaimed Emperor of distance racing.

“There is no need to fear competition. Like everyone else in the field, I have trained hard and Haile is a great competitor but for me, I always go out to run my race,” the man who broke Haile’s hegemony in the streets of Berlin last year opined.

“The good thing about Patrick is the devotion to give his best. The London race was a good example of that. He has this spirit to succeed in the face of anything thrown at him that will take him places but yet, he remains humble as well as being a symbol to his community,” his manager added.

During this year’s London race, Makau was among the favourites for the title but a nasty fall mid race knocked the stuffing out of his system.

He picked himself up to fight his way to the podium and was only denied runners-up by a determined closing charge from compatriot and three-time event winner Martin Lel as he came home in 2:04:45. By then, Emmanuel Mutai had already sealed the win in 2:04:40, a course record performance.

Makau came to London as the quickest runner of 2010 with his 2:04:48, the then fourth fastest in history, achieved in Rotterdam before rainfall in Berlin in the latter stages of the race derailed his world record bid although he won in 2:05:08.

Training partner, Nicholas Kamakya who won the 2011 Gold Coast Marathon with a new race record of 2:10:01 shortly after the Ngong interview had this to say about his more illustrious mate.

“Makau inspires us with his discipline and above all, the fact that he has shown athletes from our region can also excel in distance running. He instills a winning mentality and training with him has seen that rub off into me as well.”

Makau, born in the Eastern region of Kenya, an area with specks of renowned distance runners as compared to the Rift Valley breadbasket of talent has also evolved to be a pillar in his community.

“I have invested a lot in projects where I engage youth in my home area actively as well as contributing to other projects in the community,” Makau, who hails from Manyanzwani in an area collectively called the Ukambani region after his Kamba tribe said.

“Many people in his home have benefited from him and this is commendable from a man who wants to share his fortune with those who do not have his ability. Besides, he has taken in some aspiring runners from the region to his training camp, catering for their expenses,” Branson expressed.

But ultimately, Makau will be judged on the output of his talented legs with Sunday presenting another highlight should he mow the greatest distance running machine that at 38, 12 years his senior, shows no sign of slowing down.

In the women’s race, Florence Kiplagat, the 2009 World Cross and 2010 World Half titleholder has a second take in the 42km race after her full marathon debut in Boston ended in a Did Not Finish.

The hard runner who will fly her nation’s flag in the German administrative capital is also set to clash against the smarting world record holder, Britain’s Paula Radcliffe who is itching to sound a warning to rivals ahead of her home Olympics next year.

Home runner, Irina Mikitenko, who delivered WMM glory to Germany, is also a major attraction and potent threat to any runner harbouring winning ambitions in the race.