Kenya’s new world women’s marathon record holder Mary Keitany on Saturday disclosed how she planned for the new world’s best time at last week’s London Marathon, saying she already knew she was in perfect shape during February’s Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates.
Paced by compatriot Caroline Chepkoech, Keitany, 35, set a new women-only world record in London running two hours, 17 minutes and one second. It was a 41-second improvement on the previous best by Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe (2:17:42) set in 2015.
Radcliffe also ran 2:15:25, a time recorded separately as the Briton used male pace-setters.
Keitany returned to her Eldoret base to a huge reception on Saturday, having had to endure a 370-kilometre road trip from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport — where she had landed from London at dawn with her husband Charles Koech and children Jared, nine, and Samantha, four.
After a reception in Eldoret, she made the final leg of her journey to her Iten home.
Bizarrely, there were no officials to welcome her at the airport despite the fame and glory she had brought the country with only a handful of journalists on hand to document her arrival.
Unfazed, Keitany and family hit the road after failing to get seats for their two children on the flights from JKIA to Eldoret, but the welcome she received at her home overshadowed the lack of interest in Nairobi.
She told Nation Sport that her world record plan was hatched in February when she ran her personal best time in the half marathon (1:05:13) at Ras Al-Khaimah, finishing behind her friend Peres Jepchirchir - who set what was then the world half marathon world record (1:05:06) in the race.
Keitany said when she ran on the streets of Ras Al-Khaimah, she was in good shape and just wanted to fine-tune back home in Iten before attacking the London course.
“When I ran well in the RAK Half Marathon, I came back home and finalised my training and this is where the world record discussion started. I was told by my manger that it was possible to run a faster time,” said Keitany.
She had been looking forward to breaking the world record for the last two years.
Last year, she had the record on her agenda at the London Marathon, but she was tripped and fell which affected her performance in the race won by disgraced compatriot Jemima Sumgong who recently tested positive for blood booster EPO (Erythropoeitin).
TRIBUTE TO PACEMAKER
“I’ve been trying to break the world record for the last two years,” she reminisced.
“Last year, I had done enough training and I knew that I was going for the record only to be tripped which affected me so much.”
She said that this year, her training went on well and she was ready for the record.
“I did my training well and, again, I wanted to break the world record, which I did.
“My plan was to run ahead of the others to avoid last year’s scenario where I fell down which affected my end result. It worked for me this time because no else followed me and I used the opportunity to go for glory,” said the new record holder.
Keitany paid tribute to her pacemaker Chepkoech whom she said “did a fantastic job”, aiding the record “because she ran a fast pace in the first half.”
“I must say that our pacemaker, Caroline, did a good job given that she was alone and had not even run a half marathon race before.
“I salute her since she is the one who ran a fast pace which eventually made me break the world record,” said Keitany, who also owns the up market Hotel Winstar in Eldoret town. An astute business couple, Keitany and Koech will be boosted by the windfall from the London race — an estimated $305,000 (Sh30.5 million).
This came in the form of $55,000 (Sh5.5 million) for the win, $100,000 (Sh10 million) for running under 2:18, $25,000 (Sh2.5 million) for the course record and $125,000 (Sh12.5 million) for the world record. This is besides attractive bonuses she will most certainly receive from her shoe sponsors, Adidas.
She noted that instructions from her husband and coach helped her a lot.
“My husband and coach gave me instructions to follow, which included running a fast pace since the Ethiopians have got a finishing kick and it helped and I’m very much happy,” she said.
Also in the field were world track champions-turned-marathoners, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot.
In 2015, Keitany finished second behind Ethiopia’s Tirfi Tsegaye, who outpaced her in the few last kilometres, which made her hunger for success bigger, after previous victories in the British capital in 2011 and 2012 before she took her maternity leave.
In 2012 she ran 2:18:37 which was also a national record then.
Keitany, who trains in Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, won last week’s race ahead of second-placed Dibaba who ran 2:17:56 despite encountering health problems in the final third of the race, while her compatriot Aselefech Mergia, who periodically trains in Iten, was third in 2:23:08.
Keitany dedicated her win to her family saying they have given her a lot of support, especially her husband who Charles Koech who doubles up as her coach.
“I dedicate my win to my family who have been supportive to me always especially my husband,” said Keitany, also the first woman in history to win the New York Marathon three times.
She is keen on retaining her title in the “Big Apple” this year.
“I’m not sure which race I will run next, but I could be competing in New York Marathon for the fourth time.”
Koech said that they are proud of her, as a family, and that they had “a good plan which came out successfully.”
“We are proud of her. We sat down with the manger (Gianni Demadonna) and he told her that she can run good time, and that she was to target her personal best.
“But we are very happy because she broke the world record,” said Koech.
Former world half marathon record holder Jepchirchir was there to welcome her friend Keitany home, saying she was “very happy” to see her friend Keitany bask in the glory of a world record.
“I’m really happy to see my friend who broke the world record back home. I want to congratulate her for doing a great job and that motivates us so much,” said Jepchirchir.
Keitany was born in 1982 in Kisok Village, Kabarnet, Baringo County, and went to Kanjulul and Kisok primary school, joining high school at Hidden Talent Academy in Nairobi where she sat her Form Four examinations in 2005.
‘HOME OF CHAMPIONS'
She started her serious training in Iten before joining the Gianni Demadonna management in 2006.
Her neighbour and Boston Marathon champion, Edna Kiplagat, said that she was very happy to see Keitany breaking the world record since it had taken long to lower Paula Radcliffe’s time.
“I’m very happy today because my good friend and neighbour has done us proud by breaking the world record that has been there for the last 13 years,” said Kiplagat, who watched Keitany’s victory in the London Marathon at Iten’s Keellu Resort, which is owned by former London winner and ex-men’s marathon world record holder Wilson Kipsang, at a viewing party organised for athletes by the Bank of Africa.
Former two-time world champion Kiplagat herself had won the Boston Marathon on her first attempt barely a week before Keitany’s triumph, throwing Elgeyo-Marakwet County into a frenzy, perhaps justification of their self-imposed tag of “Home of Champions.”