New World Marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang is the only Kenyan who has been shortlisted for the 2013 IAAF World Athlete of the Year Award.
And the new world champion believes that it’s only a matter of time before the record deeps to under two hours.
The 31-year-old on Sunday shaved 15 seconds off Patrick Makau’s world record (also set in Berlin two years ago), posting new time of two hours, three minutes and 23 seconds to win the 40th Berlin Marathon.
Kipsang talked about being inspired by seeing legendary athlete Paul Tergat breaking the record in Berlin 10 years ago with 2:04:55. But it was a little more than watching a famous compatriot. “I know him very well, we are from the same area, almost family. When he broke the World record here ten years ago, I was just starting training.
“He talked to me a lot, advising me on how I should train, how I should discipline myself, and I really tried to follow what he said,” Kipsang said. He is now returning the compliment, as head of a training group which can expand to 200 runners on some days.
“You need a leader. When you have a group of people, they disagree, so I say, ‘guys, we’re going to do an hour and ten minutes, and this is the route’. For those guys to accept your opinion, you need to have done it yourself and been successful. Then leadership comes automatically.”
MANY TALENTED ATHLETES
At the same event, Florence Kiplagat, who recaptured her Berlin Marathon title, has predicted that the women’s record could go within two years, adding that Kipsang’s exploits has inspired them achieve that. Kipsang and Kiplagat, who clocked 2:21:13 to reclaim the title she won last in 2011 on her marathon debut, were speaking upon arrival yesterday from Berlin.
They were accompanied by Eliud Kipchoge (2:04:05) and Geoffrey Kipsang (2:06:26), who finished second and third in the men’s race, and Helah Kiprop (2:28.02), who romped home fourth in women’s race.
The athletes were later hosted for breakfast at Athletics Kenya (AK) headquarters where they were at hand to receive a sponsorship cheque of Sh2.8 million for this Sunday’s Family Bank Half Marathon race due for Eldoret, from the financial institution’s managing director, Peter Munyiri.
Kipsang and Kiplagat later proceeded to present their medals to Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo, at his Jogoo House office. Kimaiyo said Constable Kipsang and Corporal Kiplagat will be promoted alongside the athletes who won medals at the World Championships in Moscow.
Kipsang who now wants to focus his energies to capturing the World and Olympic titles in 2015 and 2016 respectively, said he wouldn’t be surprised if someone broke his record in the next year or even run under two hours given good weather conditions.
“Things have changed now and it’s no longer the top and well known athletes alone who can break the record,” said Kipsang, singling out former World 5000m champion, Kipchoge, who has posted 2:04 in his second marathon.
Kipsang gave the example of Makau who was virtually unknown before he set the world record of 2:03:38 at 2011 Berlin.
“Who knew about Dennis Kimetto before he set a new world 25km record (1:11:18) during the 2012 BIG 25 Berlin?” posed Kipsang, who will also be seeking to better his world record at three possible venues - Frankfurt, London or Berlin. Kipsang said that Kenya has many athletes with potential and all they need to do is go out and make the attempt.
“Most don’t realise their potential and continue to sleep on their talent. They need to do is believe in themselves,” he said, adding that it took self belief and discipline to break the world record.
“I took that risk without fear. Nilisema nikikosa ni sawa, nikipata nitashukuru Mungu.” (I told myself to go for it. I would soldier on, and whether I missed or hit my target, thanks would be to God, whatever the case).
Kiplagat, on her part, said the women’s record (2:15:25) won’t last beyond 2015 with good planning. She vowed to talk to World champion, Edna Kiplagat, London Marathon champion, Priscah Jeptoo, Boston Marathon champion, Rita Jeptoo and Mary Keitany about forming a possible partnership to break the world record.
Back in Berlin, it was almost gratifying for those who saw him to witness Kipsang limp into the press conference on Monday. Elite athletes like him may be supermen, but a hard, fast run still reduces them – but for a brief period – to a similar state to the rest of us.
Nevertheless, Kipsang managed a 25-minute jog after breakfast. “I tried to go for a short run, to warm up the body, and recover from yesterday, but I was still feeling a lot of pain. But when I woke up, I was still feeling happy and excited to be the World record-holder. It’s still at the front of my mind.”
After this latest feat, there will be even less inclination to dispute his opinion. As for future plans, they will feature no shortage of invitations, as Kipsang admits. “Now everybody wants me to run their race, but after a three-week rest my manager will look at the invitations to shorter races and then we’ll decide.”
Reported by AYUMBA AYODI and PAT BUTCHER.