At last September’s BMW Berlin Marathon, two Kenyan runners had to be stretchered off the course at the Brandenburg Gate finish and quite literally carried onto their flight back to Nairobi.
The pair (whom I will not name as a face-saving gesture for the good of Kenyan athletics) had made one critical mistake – running the German marathon at world record pace, totally unprepared for the ramifications, and eventually falling way behind their compatriot and record-breaking (two hours, three minutes and 38 seconds) winner Patrick Makau Musyoki.
Finishing the marathon is not easy, and breaking the world marathon record is a true act of heroism, which Stephen Chemlany – second to Makau in Berlin - knows that only too well.
The 29-year old Kenyatta University graduate was a pacesetter for the second group in Berlin and ended up being the surprise silver medallist, finishing behind Makau in a personal best 2:07.55, just over four minutes behind the winner.
Chose to finish
“I was pacing the second group and I knew I was going all the way to the finish, but I was not going to keep up with Makau’s pace because only two things could then happen – I either do very well, or very badly. I chose to take it easy and finish,” Chemlany said here, where he is among a strong Kenyan group entered in Sunday’s ABN-Amro Rotterdam Marathon.
Indeed, his cautious run earned the Kitale-based former US collegiate distance running champion a coveted second place as his two colleagues were stretchered off, guilty of attempting a world record run out of the blues. Unprepared.
Well, Sunday, a well-prepared Moses Mosop will be going for Makau’s jugular, confident of overhauling the world marathon record time.
And with a cash bonus of 350,000 euros (approximately Sh35 million) on offer for that world record here, nothing better could motivate Mosop “Engine Kubwa” to go full throttle, of course besides the small matter of a possible automatic ticket to the London Olympics in the summer.
Unlike our two friends in Berlin, Mosop has meticulously planned for his assault, including travelling to this port city five weeks ago for a recce to take “pace notes” around the flat 42km Rotterdam course.
Special ‘ugali’ diet
These notes would aid his training at Ngong Hills and race director Mario Kadiks has been kind enough to arrange for a special diet of ugali at the athletes’ Novotel Brainpark Hotel, with Kenyan-born Dutchwoman Judith Masai-Dennisen spinning the delicacy in the top-class hotel’s kitchen.
Just the fuel needed to get “Engine Kubwa” firing on all cylinders.
Besides Mosop and Chemlany, the field here today includes Kenya’s 10,000m champion, Peter Kirui, fresh from winning the New York City Half Marathon, and 58.48 half marathoner Sammy Kitwara, a bronze medallist at the 2010 World Half Marathon Championships in Nanning, China.
The weather forecast looks good, temperatures predicted to toy around a high of 10 degrees centigrade, with wind speeds of around four metres per second probably the biggest threat to Mosop’s attempt on this flat course.
“Everything seems perfect; the only worry, of course, will be the wind,” Mosop’s coach, Renato Canova, said at the Novotel On Saturday. The Italian coaches several top Kenyan distance runners, including Kitwara, who will be making his full marathon debut, and world champion Abel Kirui.
The Kenyans have been inspired by the arrival of Athletics Kenya secretary-general David Okeyo.
“The reception has been good, the athletes are in high spirits and I’d like to with all the Kenyans in action this weekend good luck. Not just here in Rotterdam, but also in the Boston, Paris, Milan and Vienna marathons, which are this weekend’s top races,” Okeyo said.
Mosop has cut a cautious figure here, keeping away from too much interference ahead of his gargantuan task.
The 27-year-old will be running in his third marathon and what a stellar career he has had so far!
On his debut at last year’s Boston Marathon, Mosop finished second to Geoffrey Mutai (2:03.02) in an amazing 2:03.06, and followed that up with victory in Chicago last October in 2:05.37.
Paced by Maiyo
“Last year I had a small injury before Chicago and I only trained for one and a half months,” Mosop said. “But my training in Kenya for the Rotterdam race has been very good and I pray to God that the weather is good and my body feels fine.
“The field is good and if we work together as Kenyans, we will get this record – I want to do something special in Rotterdam.”
Mosop’s lead pack will be paced to the 35km mark by a strong group of “rabbits” led by Jonathan Maiyo, who clocked 2:04 at this year’s Dubai Marathon.
Makau will be watching keenly as he prepares for Sunday’s Virgin London Marathon which has attracted the best ever field that features other Kenyan Olympic hopefuls Martin Lel, Wilson Kipsang and Emmanuel Mutai.
There will be no Kenyan in the women’s race with overwhelming favourites being Ethiopians Tiki Gelana, the 2011 Amsterdam Marathon champion (2:22.01), and Merima Hasen (2:23.06), fourth in Frankfurt Marathon.