NAIROBI, Kenya, October 1- A welcome like no other was accorded to Berlin Marathon heroes; new world record* holder Dennis Kimetto and the man he led to the altar, Emmanuel Mutai, when they made a triumphant return to the country on a chilly Wednesday morning after blasting to history on Sunday.
Besides family and friends awaiting them who burst to song and dance as is custom when they emerged, Kimetto and Mutai were pleasantly surprised when Athletics Kenya (AK) spared no expense in giving them the full red-carpet treatment usually reserved for visiting entertainment stars and of late, the national rugby sevens team.
Two Chrysler limousines, a sedan and later a full-stretch limo with customised plates reading KIMETTO 2:02:57 were on hand to ferry them to a five-star hotel, Athletics Kenya headquarters and finally, around the streets of Nairobi in a parade never before organised for returning athletics champions by the federation.
As is tradition, they were both adorned with fresh wreaths from the Sinendet tree reserved for conquerors and a swig of the fermented Mursik milk from a gourd to kick-start the ceremony.
With the self-styled University of Champions Eldoret awaiting to roll out their grand reception on Thursday, life is one huge party at the moment for the first man in history to dip under 2:03 in the ultimate distance and his compatriot who bravely followed him home in 2:03:13, a huge career best that was also under Wilson Kipsang’s previous standard of 2:03:23 chalked in Berlin last year.
“I was not expecting to break the record until after 30km when I looked at the watch and realised I could make it,” Kimetto, the soft-spoken potent running machine reiterated for the umpteenth time since Sunday when he pushed marathon running to a new frontier.
However, in a departure from the bemused face he has won since Sunday when he has been in and out of one media obligation after another, this time he wore a huge grin that lit up his dark face since he was flanked by spouse Caroline Chepkorir Kimetto and son Alpha Kibet besides his elderly father and mother among other close relatives.
“I’m so happy to see my family, friends and top AK officials here. Now, all I want is to recover and then we see what happens next year,” and looking intently at his son, “It is my hope than one day he will also break the world record, who knows? Maybe 1:59?” He added with a chuckle.
Mutai, a man who history will always label ‘the eternal bridesmaid’ for his penchant of finishing second but has done more to assure his place in the Pantheon of marathon greatness owing to fearsome steadiness was also chuffed by the red carpet treatment.
“I’m very happy for what I did. I did all I could on Sunday and hoping next time to win the race but the time I did was incredible for me. Being a consistent performer for all that time is not easy. So I’m happy for what I did,” Mutai, 30, whose previous personal best of 2:03:52 was run last year in Chicago when he trailed Kimetto to the tape once again, stated.
On Sunday, he stretched his astonishing record of finishing second in World Marathon Majors races to eight with his time in Berlin the fastest losing time in a world record eligible course, bettering his own Chicago mark.
“There is always a beginning for everything. This is no less than they deserve for what they did in Berlin,” AK CEO, Isaac Mwangi, said of the spectacular reception Kimetto and Mutai were given.
“Many people do not realise what these athletes achieve for this country out there and it is upon us to show them what it means by making sure they feel them,” his president, Isaiah Kiplagat, who was at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to receive the Berlin world beaters added.
*Pending usual IAAF ratification procedures