Athletics Athletics

Bubbling Kipchoge eyes Rotterdam record


ELIUD-MARATHONNAIROBI, April 9- Time will be the propelling factor for Kenya’s former world 5000m titleholder and Olympics silver medallist, Eliud Kipchoge when he lines up the streets of Rotterdam on Sunday for the 42.195km distance race.

Kipchoge, 29, is a big name in long distance running, but according to him, he is a novice in marathon.

He threw himself at the deep end in 2003, then aged 18, when he surprised the world to win the Paris World Championship 5,000m gold ahead of Kenenisa Bekele and Hicham el Guerrouj.

That was on track. His transition to marathon has also been embellished. He debut at the marathon distance last year in Hamburg and won in a fast time of 2:05:30.

Five months down the line, he returned to Germany and was unlucky to lose out to Wilson Kipsang (2:03:23) in a world record run.

He was second in 2:04:05, which made him the sixth fastest marathoner in history. Yet he still views himself as a novice.

“I might have taken a while to move to the marathon world. But remember Rotterdam will be my third marathon and I still need more time to learn the trade. Many experienced athletes will be out to conquer the course and I and I respect that,” Kipchoge told Xinhua on Wednesday in Nairobi.

But he will be eyeing to hit two birds with one stone, if the third, world record falls in place and so be it.

“I want to run a fast time in Rotterdam and hopefully win. That is my target. The course in Rotterdam is flat and will fit well with my running style. I will push hard and am sure it will not burn me out. I want to give it my best shot,” he said.

“If the world record falls within, then that will be a bonus. But I am not making an attempt on Kipsang’s record.”

Behind Kipchoge’s mind will be a quest to catch the selectors’ eye, after he was overlooked for the World Half Marathon team and the World Championships in Moscow last year.

“I want a good run in Rotterdam, which will be able to prove to the selectors that I can do well at the World Championships. But for now I want a call to represent the country at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland,” said Kipchoge.

The current record of 2:04:27 was set in 2009 by Kenyan runners Duncan Kibet and James Kwambai, who, after a thrilling finish, crossed the finish line dead heat.

After examining the course last month, Kipchoge suggested there was a good chance that time would be beaten.

The Kenyan, one of the very best road athletes around at the moment, will face tough competition from fellow-countryman Bernard Koech, 26, who trains in the same group, is only 48 seconds slower on paper. Koech made his debut in 2013 in Dubai with a time of 2:04:53.

Koech beat Kipchoge in June 2013 during the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in San Diego in a direct duel, in the very fast time of 58:51 minutes.

A couple of months later, despite back problems, he came third in the Amsterdam marathon (2:06:29).

Kenyans Albert Matebor and Jafred Kipchumba and the Ethiopian Birhanu Gebru are among the strong field. These top athletes all have a personal best of 2:05.

Matebor (33), who already has 18 marathons under his belt, put in his best performance three years ago in Frankfurt: 2:05:25. Since 2011, he has always finished in the top 10 of this highly competitive event.

Kipchumba, 30 won the Eindhoven marathon in 2011. In Brabant, he knocked almost two and a half minutes off his PB, with a time of 2:05:48.

Gebru 27, ended second in the Amsterdam marathon, in 2:06:06. Two months ago, he excelled himself in Dubai. His time of 2:05:49 won him third place on the victory podium.

Kipchoge however, is not focusing on his opponents’ strength but his won.

“The secret of winning in any race is preparing to win the same race. Your work hard, keep focus and commit yourself when necessary. It kept me afloat on the track now the marathon distance will be waiting. In Rotterdam, I want to win,” he said.