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Gebrselassie’s record under Kenyan attack

Tuesday January 20 2009

Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia celebrates after

Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia celebrates after he crossed the finish line to win the Dubai marathon on Friday. PHOTO/ REUTERS 

Looking ahead. The marathons of 2009: The Spring marathons are always a high point on the Kenyan calendar, the Boston Marathon could as well be dubbed Kenya-owned with dominating performances by Ibrahim Hussein, Moses Tanui, Cosmas Ndeti, Catherine Ndereba, and Robert Cheruiyot, all claiming multiple wins over the past few years.

Cheruiyot, the defending champion, will be returning to Hopkinton on Patriots’ Day, and his aim is clear: “To successfully defend. I would be satisfied with five or six titles.”

Few would bet against him collecting more than his quad of wins. Only Clarence De Mar, decades and decades ago (with seven wins), stands between Cheruiyot and legendary status in the world’s oldest marathon.

To date Cheruiyot, who holds the Boston course record of 2:07:14, is the only man to run two sub 2:08 times on this challenging course.

Ndereba will not be trying for her own fifth title in Beantown. She’ll be racing the world’s finest at the Flora London Marathon in England.

Ndereba, a resident of Karen, will compete against the surprise Olympic champion Constantina Dita, the World Majors champion, Irina Mitichenko, and the world record holder Paula Radcliffe. It should be a battle royale.

If Catherine can win London, it would be the boost Kenyan women’s marathoning needs to match the morale their male counterparts made when decimating the rest of the world at Rotterdam (William Kipsang), Boston (Cheruiyot), and London (Lel) events last year.

Felix Limo and Martin Lel, between the two of them, have made the latter marathon another Kenyan event over recent years.

Lel, who has won the event thrice, will train together with Robert Cheruiyot over the next three months, under the guidance of Italian coach Claudio Berardelli.

The two once schooled at the same institution and, in fac,t their first ‘run’ together was when Robert chased Martin after hitting him with a stick (and was unable to catch him) when Martin had ‘borrowed’ Robert’s bicycle.

They parted ways when Robert switched schools never knowing each other’s name.

Ten years later they came face to face as close friends when running under the same management, Team Rosa, in Italy. They have remained the closest of friends ever since.

Sammy Wanjiru will also be at London, hoping to improve on his runner’s up spot of 2008 when Lel smoked the last kilometre and put ten seconds on his compatriot.

As history shows, Wanjiru got ample revenge at the Beijing Olympics, but the meeting of these two gargantuan names on the streets of London will be surely the highlight of the spring races.

Strong headwind

Gebrselassie’s world’s best time set in Berlin last September, 2:03:58 could well be under threat if Lel and Wanjiru do as they plan, and work to crack this mark at the London event and bring the record back to Kenya.

Strong headwind and hard rain could not deny Lel a new course record at London in 2008 (2:05:15) and it is not unrealistic to suppose that with a set plan, and Wanjiru pushing at his side, those 77-seconds could be eliminated by this dynamic duo, weather willing of course.

As the summer rolls on, all hopes will be that Kenya sends the ‘A’ team to the World Athletics Championships to build on the success of Beijing. It would be wonderful to see a men’s marathon team of Cheruiyot, Lel and Wanjiru in Berlin.

Hat-trick

The world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie, has already stated his intent to be in the German capital to attempt his first marathon championship title, but when pitted against Kenya’s finest marathoners at the London Marathon Gebrselassie has never prevailed.

Fingers crossed Ndereba will also attempt to win an unprecedented hat-trick of marathon wins in the World Championship. No other female athlete has even her two victories (Paris ’03 & Osaka ’07).

Athletics aficionados are also hoping Rita Jeptoo will return to the national team after her late omission at the Beijing Olympics, and coupled with Martha Komu, whose fighting spirit at those Games was simply outstanding, the Kenyan ladies could provide a golden highlight to the championships.

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