Resilience is a word that seriously understates Lucy Kabuu’s drive towards earning the coveted Olympic Games marathon ticket.
After Athletics Kenya announced, in January, the short-list for Kenya’s team to the London Games this summer, many athletes gave up their quest and instead shifted their focus towards other big city races, some hoping their legs will carry them to the Games of the 2016 Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro.
But not Kabuu. The diminutive Kabuu, who will be celebrating her 29th birthday on March 24, hadn’t featured in any marathon when the women’s squad of six - Mary Keitany, Ednah Kiplagat, Lydia Cheromei, Sharon Cherop, Florence Kiplagat and Prisca Jeptoo - was named.
Kenya’s final squad
But her amazing debut at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on January 27, where she ran Kenya’s fourth-fastest time of two hours, 19 minutes and 34 seconds saw people stand up and take note.
She was immediately signed by David Bedford for the Virgin London Marathon on April 22 which could well decide Kenya’s final squad for the Olympics.
Despite the fact that Athletics Kenya argue that experience holds key for selection, Kabuu targets a very fast time in London that would see the AK selector reconsider their decision.
“We are currently training to beat either Paula Radcliffe’s world record or the Kenya national record held by Catherine Ndereba,” Jeremiah Maina, Kabuu’s husband and coach, said after Saturday’s morning training session in Iten. Ndereba holds Kenya’s record of 2:18.47 that she set at the 2001 Chicago Marathon while Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe holds the women’s two fastest times (2:15.25 and 2:17.18).
“Kabuu’s progression has been very good since she decided to move up to the half marathon,” says Maina of Kabuu, a former Kenya Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the 10,000m.
With most of Kenya’s elite stars preferring to train in isolation, Kabuu has been quite free with her regime, joining either world champion Ednah Kiplagat or London Marathon champion Mary Keitany for long runs in Iten.
“She knows that she has to gain a lot of experience and that’s why she shifts her training to learn from the top girls.”
Last Friday, Kabuu and Keitany pushed each other on a 30-kilometre long run and Kabuu expects, after a week, to push up to 40km and then to 48km. “We call this the ‘pyramid’ training,” explains Maina.
After hitting 48km, they will then scale down to 40km and then 30km in weekly intervals.
“In between, they concentrate on track sessions that include three times 5,000m and 15 times 400 metres for speedwork.” The track speed sessions have seen Kabuu link up with world champions Linet Masai and Vivian Cheruiyot, also to garner the much-needed experience and exposure.
“We are juggling our training between Iten and Nyahururu,” adds Maina whose coaching team includes William “Fabisch” Ng’ang’a. It was Ng’ang’a who encouraged Kabuu to take up marathon running.