Pacemakers crucial for record-chasing athletes in Berlin

Thursday September 21 2017

Geoffrey Rono during a training session at the scenic Kolol Falls, along Kerio Valley escarpments in Elgeyo-Marakwet County on September 8, 2017. Rono, Gideon Kipketer and Sammy Kitwara will be pacemaking at the Berlin Marathon on September 24. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

Geoffrey Rono during a training session at the scenic Kolol Falls, along Kerio Valley escarpments in Elgeyo-Marakwet County on September 8, 2017. Rono, Gideon Kipketer and Sammy Kitwara will be pacemaking at the Berlin Marathon on September 24. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BERNARD ROTICH
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The whole world will be focussing on the Berlin Marathon on Sunday as elite athletes seek to lower the world record.

Former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang, Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge and Berlin Marathon champion Kenenisa Bekele will all be seeking to break the world record in the German capital.

But for the athletes to lower the world record, the three will rely on pacemakers who will make sure they run a programmed time in order to lower the current record of 2hours, 02.57 minutes currently held by Dennis Kimetto.

In the 2014 Berlin Marathon, Kimetto broke his compatriot Wilson Kipsang's time of 2:03:23 the latter had clocked in winning the race a year earlier.

And race organisers have selected the best field possible to pace for the elite athletes, among them Gideon Kipketer who was third in 2017 Tokyo Marathon, fifth-placed finisher in 2015 London Marathon Sammy Kitwara, and Geoffrey Rono.

The three will lead the athletes till the 30km mark before they drop out of the race.

Geoffrey Rono, a Kenya Wildlife Service officer based in Iten in Elgeyo Marakwet County, has been training and participating in various races since 2012.

Rono will be going to Berlin for the third time after pacing for Kimetto in the 2014 edition of the race. Last year, he was a pacemaker for the athletes who participated in the race, among them Bekele.

The athlete said that his memorable time was when he helped Kimetto lower Kipsang's time by 26 seconds in 2014.

“I will always remember the 2014 race where I helped Kimetto to break the world record. We had done a lot of training. This year I’m in top form and I’m looking forward to a memorable race again,” he said.

Rono said that this time round the race will feature three of the world’s best marathoners (Kipsang, Bekele and Kipchoge), giving him confidence that the record will be lowered.

“I’m in top form and I know with the other two pacemakers, we will be able to run well in the race this Sunday. Last year, the other four pacemakers dropped out after 13km and I had to push the race alone up to 30km mark and I was happy because Bekele missed the record by six seconds,” he added.

In 2014, Rono was tasked to pace for the athletes in Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon. He was allowed to finish the race and won ahead of Kipsang and Kimetto who came in second and third respectively.

This year, Rono and Kipsang competed in Tokyo Marathon where Kipsang led after breaking the course record, while Rono finished 10th.

He will be using the race as part of training as he prepares to participate in a full marathon which he is yet to confirm.

Gideon Kipketer was in the Kenya’s team to the World Championship in London where he came in sixth position.

Kipketer is remembered as a pacemaker who decided to finish Mumbai Marathon in 2016 where he ran a course record.