Not even thieves will run away with Kenya’s world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang’s resolve to make another major statement at this weekend’s eagerly-awaited London Marathon.
The policeman from Iten’s travel plans were thoroughly upset this week when thieves sneaked into his car and made away with the runner’s personal effects, including his precious passport, delaying his travel to London where he will be seeking to reclaim the title he won two years ago in the iconic race’s second fastest time ever.
Kipsang acquired a new passport and United Kingdom visa in record time and was on the flight to London last night, shaken but not shattered. No arrests have been made.
“What happened was unfortunate, but I’m ok now and all set for Sunday’s race despite this major hiccup,” Kipsang, 32, said yesterday before taking his flight to the marathon venue, where he will be seeking to improve his 2012 winning time of two hours, 40 minutes and 44 seconds, which was just four seconds shy of course record-holder Emmanuel Mutai’s 2:04.40.
Kipsang shattered compatriot Patrick Makau’s world record at last year’s Berlin Marathon, setting a new mark of 2:03.23 and will, on Sunday, line up against the best ever field assembled for a marathon race.
His manager, Dutchman Gerard van de Veen of Volare Sports, said from London that the passport hitch meant that Kipsang had to delay his travel for two days.
“He was scheduled to travel on Monday, but because of the stolen passport, all our plans had to change,” van de Veen said from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Wednesday as he headed to London.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) he had to travel from Iten to Nairobi and back, which interfered with his training programme, but I hope it will not affect him too much on Sunday.”
The irony in the entire episode is that Kipsang is a policeman and Iten is one of Kenya’s safest towns and home to most of the country’s world-beating athletes and such incidents as theft are virtually unheard of.
HIGH ALTITUDE TRAINING
Iten’s enviable safety record is one on the reasons behind Great Britain’s Athletics Performance Director Neil Black’s decision to set up a high performance centre in the town for British distance running stars, including World and Olympic champion Mo Farah, who was in Iten on a four-month training programme that ended last Monday at the High Altitude Training Centre.
Kipsang shares the same management at Volare Sports with one of his fiercest rivals in London on Sunday, Kenya’s New York Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai, but van de Veen believes such “sibling” rivalry could most probably push the race to a world record.
Technically speaking, the pace agreed upon between the athletes, managers and organisers is that the lead group, pulled by the pacemakers, should hit the halfway mark in 61 minutes and 45 seconds, which is just 15 seconds slower than the schedule at last year’s Berlin Marathon when Kipsang broke the world mark of 2:03.23.
“But then in Berlin, the pace slowed down a bit in the second half of the race before picking up, so if it’s a stable pace on Sunday, the weather is good and the pacemakers do a good job, then a world record is possible — a world record is never bought, it is made!” van de Veen said.
Besides Kipsang and Mutai, the Virgin Money-sponsored London Marathon has attracted a stellar field that includes defending champion Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia, course record-holder Emmanuel Mutai, Uganda’s World and Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich and Farah who will be making his debut over the 42-kilometre distance.