His last victory in a major city marathon might have been over a year ago in Boston, but Omar Ahmed (Robert ‘Mwafrika’ Cheruiyot) has cautioned his rivals to rule him out at their own peril.
It will be his second race in New York and Cheruiyot, a four time Boston marathon champion, still has a clear picture of what the course is like.
Cheruiyot, 31, last competed in the New York City Marathon in 2005, finishing fourth in 2 hours, 11 minutes and 1 second in what went down in marathon history as the closest finish ever when Paul Tergat beat South Africans Hendrick Ramaala in a sprint finish by one second.
“I was just getting into marathon. I still remember the corners and the stretches on the course and I will enter aiming for one thing, victory,” said Cheruiyot.
Injury and strong opposition has limited Cheruiyot’s podium finishes for over one and half years. He had to give up his slot to Luke Kibet for Olympics having got a thigh injury and he struggled to finish fifth in last year’s World Championship in Berlin.
“It has been hard on me. I have not lost out my form but with injuries, it becomes hard for anyone to win,” he said.
Cheruiyot has a personal best of 2:07:14, which he got in Boston in 2006. Earlier this year, he dropped out of the Boston race after 35km due to back pain. However, on his return to New York after four years, he intends to answer his critics with victory.
For a man who a little over a decade ago he was living on approximately Sh20 a day earning from his barber shop in Mosoriot trading centre in Kapsabet, money no longer inspires him as much as the prospects of becoming a legend and king of road racing.
“I really like to remain focussed and run as long as I can. I believe I still have enough to pull this one under my opponents’ feet,” said Cheruiyot.
Talking after finish a morning long run in Eldoret, Cheruiyot noted that the current crop of young marathoners have made it complicated for the experienced lot to prevail.
But he intends to navigate through and show his resilience and capture the only big marathon title on American soil that has eluded him.
Cheruiyot was last in New York in 2007 when he came not to run but to collect his Sh38 million ($500,000) World Marathon majors jackpot prize. Two more Kenyans Martin Lel and Samuel Wanjiru have since won the WMM crown.
On November 2, Wanjiru, the Olympic and Chicago marathon champion will be picking his prize while last year’s winner Lel will be lining up alongside Cheruiyot in battle for the New York marathon title for 2009.
Another top Kenyan in the race will be Cheruiyot’s training mate James Kwambai.
“I do not train to run against anyone. I also do not fear running against anyone. I am ready for the battle and I wound up my training on Monday and leave on Tuesday,” he said.
Former World marathon record holder Paul Tergat, who was also expected to line up against his compatriots, has pulled out with hip joint injury.