Like Olympic 5,000 metres champion Vivian Cheruiyot, Betsy Saina is slowly getting familiar with the marathon after making the big transition from the track to road last year.
With Cheruiyot the star attraction at this Sunday’s Frankfurt Marathon, her second career marathon race, Saina will travel to USA for the prestigious New York Marathon next Sunday (November 5) looking to bag a good time.
The US-based Saina will line up with her mentors Mary Keitany and Edna Kiplagat, two of Kenya’s world-leading marathon runners at the “Big Apple.”
The 29-year-old made the bold move to relocate from her Colorado Springs base in the US to Iten in Elgeyo-Marakwet County to enjoy altitude training and also work out alongside Kenya’s elites, including Kiplagat and Keitany.
Running for Nike Bowerman Track Club, the Iowa State University nursing graduate says the training at altitude holds her in good stead.
“I decided to train in Iten so that I could concentrate more. Seeing other top athletes training here also motivates me a lot, unlike in the US where you are alone in the long runs and during the speed work sessions,” she explains.
She has been seeking advice particularly from two-time world marathon champion Kiplagat because of the latter’s experience in the 42-kilometre distance.
“I have always admired Edna and I have been seeking advice from her on how to run a marathon race. She has been of great help because her tips have really improved my performance and I’m looking forward to a good run.”
“My training has been good and having been given tips with by mentors, I will go out and compete well and just run my race because marathon is a tough race,” she said.
“After the New York Marathon, I really want to always represent my country in other events like the World Championships and, if all goes well, I would love to be named in the marathon team for the 2019 World Championships in Qatar.”
Saina, who hails from the slopes of Nandi Hills in Nandi County, represented Kenya in the Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro last year in 10,000 metres where she finished fifth in 30 minutes, 7.78 seconds.
She was eighth at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing (31:51.35) and lined up for Tokyo Marathon early this year but didn’t finish because of injury.
“I tried my luck in Tokyo Marathon but I didn’t finish the race after picking a leg injury but I’m now fit after doing my training well,” added the athlete.
During the Great North Run Half Marathon in Birmingham, England, last month, Saina finished fifth (1:11:25) in a race that saw Mary Keitany win in 1:05:59, followed by Cheruiyot (1:07:44).
In New York, Keitany will be seeking to win an unprecedented fourth title.
The New York men’s category comprises of, among others, former champion Wilson Kipsang, Lucas Rotich and two-time world cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
Date of birth: June 30, 1988
Residence: Colorado Springs, USA
Events: 5,000m, 10,000m and Marathon