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Wedding bells for Stanchart king Kebenei

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NAIROBI, Kenya, October 30- Through the sands of time, men have gone through great lengths to impress the apple of their eyes in wooing their hand in marriage.

Ernest Kebenei is no different and on Sunday, the 27-year-old crafted one of the most ingenious ways of informing his fiancée, Pamela Cheruiyot, his commitment to lead her down the aisle in December.

First, he lined-up among another 2,000 for his debut in the men’s 42km race at the ninth Stanchart Nairobi International Marathon, then worked his way to the top of the field before giving his all in a close finish to win the event.

Then, with an assorted battery of local and international media interviewing the latest winner of the country’s biggest race, the freshly minted champion asserted, “I’m single now but not for long since I plan to get married in December. Some of the money I have won here today will be spent on that.”

“She is a student at Baraton University in Eldoret and as a young man; I cannot be spending money without investing since the economy of the country at the moment is not good.”

Needless to say, his unsolicited public marriage announcement captivated his interrogators and the sound bite declaring his marriage declaration was replayed on rotation on national radio and television.

Kebenei, who won the 21km race at the same event in 2009, thus managed to romanticise an event that until his unusual nuptial declaration, was missing its usual carnival atmosphere.

“I want to marry only that one woman, that is enough for me as well as invest on a plot I own in Eldoret where I plan to put up some rental houses,” the runner who bagged the $15,000 (Sh1.5m) top prize for his 2:10:54 winning effort stressed.

Kebenei is coached by Said Aziz, the man who turned Olympics women 800m titleholder, Pamela Jelimo from a budding talent to a world beater before her management severed links with him.

“He has been progressing gradually over the last two years and we decided the time had come for him to make his full marathon debut. We did training in a way that we ensured he would remain strong throughout the race and he is another to look out for,” Aziz.

Although it took a monumental effort and a battle of will for Kebenei to edge Franklin Chepkwony in the tightest finish at the event, the winner who required medical assistance before finding his feet is confident his victory had set the stage for him to scale bigger heights.

“I’m looking forward to run in races such as Dubai Marathon in January or London. And the good thing about this race is that it gives many athletes the platform,” Kebenei, who wants to emulate last year’s winner, David Barmasai who went on to win in Dubai before finishing fifth at the World Championships stated.

“I was only worried about the other half of the race, from the 21km to 35km mark but when we got to the turn (35km) I decided to move to the front.

“I was measuring the strength of the front runners when I broke for the first time and when I did it again, the second guy was still with me and at that point, I felt my energy was going and at 41km, I used all I had to beat him.”

His build-up for the Stanchart Marathon consisted running in the Kebirigo Road Race (10km) in Kisii, finishing seventh at September’s Ndakaini Half and a ninth finish at the 12km race of the Ndalat Gaa Cross Country.

Kebenei who trains in Kapsabet lives in Eldoret with his brother Nixon who also competes in road races, having shaped his career on the roads.

Since 2009, he has competed in 12 international races including Spirit of Columbus, Deseret Morning News, America’s Finest City and Rite Aid Cleveland half marathon in addition to the Peachtree Road Race in America.

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