Any avid follower of track and field will most certainly have heard of Volare Sports.
This is the Netherlands-based athletics management team, headed by amiable Dutchman Gerard van de Veen, that handles Kenya’s elite road runners, led by world record holders Wilson Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto and Geoffrey Mutai.
The three are no doubt the hottest property in global marathon running at the moment and wherever they go, media, fans and organisers alike roll out the red carpet, applaud and splash out tidy sums in appearance fees for these Kenyan superstars.
Kipsang is the world record holder in the marathon (2:03.23) while Kimetto holds the world record in the 25km race (1:11.18), recently also shattering the course record at the Chicago Marathon (2:03.45) after, in February, also running the fastest time in the Tokyo Marathon (2:06.50).
Mutai is the fastest marathon runner of all time, having in 2011, decimated the Boston course in an amazing two hours, three minutes and two seconds although, unfortunately, the Boston course is non-world record compliant due to its drop in elevation and point-to-point measurements.
Kipsang, recently voted World Athlete of the Year by global road running association, AIMS, is enjoying cult status upon his return to the European road running circuit after his amazing run in Berlin in which he sliced 15 seconds off compatriot Patrick Makau’s world record realised on the same course in 2011.
The policeman from Iten will be in action today in the Montferlandrun 15-kilometre race in the city of ‘s-Heerenburg in the Montferland municipality on the Dutch border with Germany, seeking to slice off a chunk of teammate Mutai’s course record of 42 minutes and 25 seconds realised last year.
The Montferlandrun is hosted annually every first Sunday of December and, besides Mutai, previous Kenyan men’s title winners include Felix Limo (1999),William Kipsang (2002), Richard Yatich (2003), Nicholas Manza (2009) and Philip Langata (2011).
Ethiopian legends Kenenisa Bekele (2000 and 2001) and Haile Gebrselassie (2007) are also on the roll of honour in this race in which another Ethiopian Bezunesh Bekele (48:32) holds the women’s record time.
Kipsang was in Montferland six years ago, finishing third in his European debut race won by Gebrselassie (42:36) but returns this time as a superstar with the prestigious world marathon record under his belt.
“It’s the first race for me since my world record and I look forward to winning,” Kipsang said yesterday in the company of his manager van de Veen.Daniel Kiptoo and Kericho’s Ezra Sang are the other top men’s contenders in the race today title-sponsored by Dutch solar company, Pfixx Solar.
This year’s Frankfurt Marathon champion Caroline Kilel, also from the Volare Sports stable, is the only Kenyan woman to have triumphed here, in 2009, although Kenya-born Dutchwomen Lornah Kiplagat (2008) and Hilda Kibet (2006) have won here.
“If I’m ahead at the eight-kilometre mark, then I know it will be my title,” added Kipsang.
Kipsang was joined by Kenya’s Paris Marathon winner, Peter Kimeli Some, and Dutch distance running champion Koen Raymaekers, also from the Volare stable, at the pre-race press conference on Friday inside the 600-year-old scenic ‘s-Heerenburg Castle where Dutch journalists scrambled to have their pictures taken alongside Kipsang.