How one Kenyan runner is coping with the tough economic times

Joshua Kiplimo working out in his homemade gym.


Perhaps someone might be interested in sponsoring this talented and hardworking runner who has been forced to train alone in a remote village due to tough economic times.

Even before the pandemic came along and made life more difficult, I had experienced and heard many stories of Kenyan runners struggling to fend for themselves as they trained hard before finally making it in life. Some don’t even want to be reminded of the hard times they went through.


There was a time I would see a runner do a tough workout in the morning, then, since his home was far away and he would anyway not find food even if he went there, would just loiter around until he does another evening run with the training group before going home. I saw him trembling with hunger one day, took him to a hotel, and ordered something small for him since I was also struggling. As he was about to sit down, he saw a 200 shilling note ($2) on the ground. It was as though something big had happened to his life as he quickly stepped on the note and sat down still for such a long time. He cautiously looked around to make sure that no one else besides me had seen him. Sweating, he slowly bent down and removed the note from the ground. He then pressed it hard in his fist, partly to make sure he actually had the money in his hand and was not just another dream, and partly to make sure that no one would snatch it away from him. He then ordered a heavy meal for himself and used the money to pay for it.


Well, that was way before the pandemic.


Quickly to the present and I now came across this amazing young runner who was forced to move out of a room he was renting out in order to be able to train with the rest of the runners here, but his resilience has seen him construct a gym for himself in the village by recycling and improvising some used containers, bags, and other materials.


Below are some of the videos of him training in his improvised gym.











Monaco Diamond League meeting will stage the highly anticipated head to head competitions this year!

Faith Kipyegon already in Monaco for the Diamond League meeting on 9th July. Photo courtesy of Faith Kipyegon's Facebook page.

It has been more than one year since Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot ran against Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen. The men’s 1500m race here will finally present the opportunity for the two to face each other. Cheruiyot has the fastest seasonal best and personal best times on the start list, but his opponent could see a weakness in the fact that he finished fourth at the Kenyan Olympic trials and was not named in the team. Ingebrigtsen who has been unbeaten in the 1500m and 5000m distances this year, and is ranked as world number two behind Cheruiyot, will most likely be hoping to prove that he is the best in the world by beating the best.

Another one of the highly anticipated races of the evening will be the women’s 1500m race that has Netherland’s Sifan Hassan and Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon. The two ran a fantastic race last month in Rome where Hassan registered a world-leading and meeting record time of 3:53.63 as she edged Kipyegon who registered a new national record and a personal best time of 3:53.91. Hailu Freweyni of Ethiopia is the only other competitor with a seasonal best time of under 4 minutes, but the clear protagonists here will be Hassan and Kipyegon.

My stories on day 1, 2 and 3 of the Kenyan Olympic Trials

Hellen Obiri after winning the world 5000m title in Doha. Photo courtesy of World Athletics

Day one:

A quality field in the women’s 5000m straight final marked the beginning of the Kenyan Olympic Trials at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi. All the big names, nine of them, stuck together up to the last 800m of the race when there was a quick increase in the pace as the runners jostled for their vantage positions coming to the bell.

Lilian Kasait who had been patient throughout the race, suddenly came to the front in the last lap and sprinted with about 300m. A single file formed behind her as Hellen Obiri fought hard to close her gap, in vain. Kasait took the title followed by Obiri in second and Agnes Tirop in third. Margaret Chelimo, Beatrice Chebet and Mercy Cherono followed for 4th, 5th and 6th places.

Faith Kipygon, as expected, easily won the women’s 1500m final leading from gun to tape. Winnie Chebet, the only other woman to have made the qualification time on the start list finished second.

Brazil is arguably the most inspirational team at the world relays in Silesia

Dos Santos of Brazil in action. Photo by World Athletics

Brazil, and other countries including India, are some of the countries that have been hugely affected by the Covid 19 pandemic, and it was great to see them able to make it to the world relays. It should be a great inspiration to the rest of the world that it is possible to fight the virus and return back to our normal lives again, by following the set rules and guidelines by our medical experts. That the world has not yet come to an end and we can still play, enjoy life and stay active again.

Sometimes, when an election draws near, politicians employ many tricks to win the hearts of the electorates. One of them is that of acting as victims of some circumstances in order to gain some “sympathy votes.”

One of the sad moments on the first day was that of Brazil getting disqualified in heat one of the women’s 4x100m relay. Considering that other nations, like the USA and Jamaica, opted to stay out of the championships due to the pandemic, and the number of tests and commitment that the Brazilian team endured to appear at the relays, perhaps the officials should have looked at the incident where one of the runners stepped on the line more leniently.

Live Streaming link to the 2021 World Relays in Silesia, Poland

 

USA and Jamaica’s absence at the 2021 World Relays could result in a more successful outing for Kenya

Team Kenya heading out for the world relays (Photo by Athletics Kenya)

The prospect for Kenya’s team that is already in Selesia and ready to represent their nation tomorrow looks more promising than it had ever been in the last editions of the world relays.

At the last world relays in Yokohama, USA had placed on top of the medal table with 22 gold medals followed by Jamaica with 5 and Kenya was in the third position with 3 gold medals. With the absence of both the USA and Jamaica at the Silesia world relays, Kenya stands a better chance of emerging on top of the medal table.

Already Kenya, Germany, and Poland have guaranteed medals to win in the mixed shuttle relays, to start off their medal hunt on the first day, if only their athletes finish the event, and are not disqualified. This is a relatively new event at the world relays where two men and two women on each team run 110m hurdle legs. There are only three countries that are entered in the event that will be one of the two finals on the first day of the championships, and three medals to be given out!

The other final of the first day (1st May) will be the 2X2X400m mixed relay. Six countries have entered the event. Kenya appears to have a strong field here with the world 800m bronze medalists, Ferguson Rotich and Commonwealth 800m champion, Wyclife Kinyamal featuring in their team. At the last world relays in Yokohama, Kenya had led from the start only to be disqualified in the end under rule 163.6. The main opponent for Kenya here will be the host nation of Poland that also has a considerably strong team and the home ground as an added advantage.

There will be seven finals on the second day, the 2nd of May: The day will feature the more established and well know relays that have more countries entered in them and that will have their heats being done on the first day. These will be the 4x400m mixed relays, and the men and women 4x 100m, 4x200m, and 4x400m.

The Kenyan team may be affected by the fact that a number of their best runners including Zablon Ekwam and Hellen Syombua were left behind due to various undisclosed reasons.

Running under the COVID 19 darkness brings up childhood memories, and soul searching, for me

Getting ready for my run

In my primary school days in the 1990s, I lived around 5km away from my school. School rules required that the pupils in the upper primary classes report to school by 5:30AM in the morning. There were three pressure lamps that we would use to light up the room and revise before there would be enough natural light from the rising sun.

However, we had a problem. No one had a watch. This won’t come as a surprise given that we were actually running to school in total darkness, not knowing what time it was, barefooted.

There was a man called Jonjo, who lived conveniently on a hill and had a small radio. He would at times pierce the night’s silence by shouting and announcing the time at exactly 4am to wake up the rest of us who had neither a radio nor a watch. He was not reliable though, and at times when he would oversleep, many pupils ended up getting late for school and getting punished.

At times I would make a terrible mistake of thinking that it was already 4AM and would go to school as early as 1AM. The watchman would ask me to go back home but remembering the scary bushes, the dark insecure bridge I had to cross at the river, and dogs I had survived to reach school, I would gladly opt to just sleep on the classroom’s cold cemented floor until other pupils would arrive.

Now, I have all the shoes and a GPS-enabled watch, but still, I do not know when the next opportunity to race will present itself.

Buffalo Marathon will take place on June 26 and 27, says organizers

Photo from Buffalo Marathon website

The Buffalo Marathon, which is now one of the qualifying marathons for the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Rankings Qualifying Series, well-loved by runners for its relatively flat and fast course, scenic views and sites alongside the course, will happen in June.

Tisia Kiplangat holds the men’s course record with a 2:15:39 time which he ran in 2015 while Hirut Guangul ran the women’s course record of 2:38:26 in 2016.

Following Governor Cuomo's press conference, the organizers have been notified that they now have the official state approval to move forward with the Buffalo Marathon. The Marathon Weekend will take place on June the 26th and 27th in Buffalo, NY.

“The safety of all participants is our highest priority, so in the coming weeks, we will publish our safety protocols detailing our safety precautions for the event weekend,” says Greg Weber, who is the race director.

“We're thrilled to welcome our loyal running community back to the 20th Anniversary of the Buffalo Marathon Weekend. Come and join us for the return to racing in Western New York,” he added

This year though, there will be no prize money for the elite runners. There are still limited charity spots available to be taken.

To read the full press release and to register, one can visit: www.buffalomarathon.org

Lack of adequate time for Ethiopia’s Marathon teams to prepare could give an edge to Kenyans in Sapporo

Mule Wasihun, Eliud Kipchoge and Moisinet Geremew (Photo by World Athletics)

A proper marathon training program usually takes around 17 weeks, which won’t happen for the selected Ethiopian Olympic Marathon team after their trials this weekend.

It is a year with many uncertainties caused by the pandemic, but it is more so for the Ethiopian marathon runners who are yet to be named in the national team to represent their nation at the Tokyo Olympic Games later in July.

As their neighbors and strong opponents in Kenya are busy strategizing on how to run well in Sapporo, Japan, the Ethiopians are still focusing on how to make the team at the relatively high altitudes near Adis Ababa.

The Ethiopian marathon national trials will happen this Saturday in Sebeta, a few kilometers away from the country’s capital city. The first three to cross the finish line will make the team.

Already, Kenenisa Bekele has protested the trials happening so close to the Olympic Games saying that there will be so little time to train for the Olympic race after. In what appears to be a huge blow to the Ethiopian federation, Birhanu Legese and Mule Wasihun are also expected to miss the trials.

Below are the athletes expected to participate in the trials.

Men:

Kenenisa Bekele

Birhanu Legesse

Moisenet Geremew

Mule Wasihun

IOC, IPC, Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Goverment and the Government of Japan's joint statement

Picture courtesy of IOC

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the government of Japan today agreed on the following measures:

  1. All participants are required to take two COVID-19 tests before their flight to Japan. 
  2. In principle, athletes and all those in close proximity with athletes will be tested daily to minimize the risk of undetected positive cases that could transmit the virus. The dates and times will be set in line with the sports events and schedule.
  3.  All other Games participants will be tested daily for three days after their arrival. After the first three days and throughout their stay, they will be tested regularly, based on the operational nature of their role and level of contact with athletes.
  4.  All Games participants must, in principle, only follow the activities they have outlined in their activity plan. They must minimize contact within one meter of Games participants who have already been in Japan for more than 14 days and Japanese residents.
  5.  All Games participants must, in principle, exclusively use dedicated Games vehicles, and they are not allowed to use public transport.
  6.  All Games participants must, in principle, eat only in the limited locations where COVID-19 countermeasures are in place, including catering facilities at Games venues, their accommodation's restaurant, and their rooms, using room service or food delivery.
  7.  Close contacts are defined as those who have prolonged contact (for 15 minutes or more) with a person who has a confirmed positive COVID-19 test, within one meter, without wearing a face mask. This is particularly applicable when such contact happens in enclosed spaces such as hotel rooms or vehicles. Cases will be confirmed by the Japanese health authorities.
More of the story on the IOC website here

If only he wasn't a Kenyan, his 2:07:51 performance would probably have placed him in the Olympic Marathon Team!

The leading pack of the Xiamen Marathon and Tuscany Camp Global Elite Race; picture from Edwin Kosgei 

After landing in the country on 13th April from Sienna, Kosgei could not hide his happiness as we talked through the phone. He had just bettered his marathon personal best time from 2:10:11 to 2:07:51, a time that has now placed him in the top 220 in the World Athletics marathon rankings. If only he wasn’t a Kenyan he probably would now be joining his friend and longtime training partner, Vincent Kipchumba in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic marathon start list.
 “I never knew it was possible!” Kosgei said. 
“All I ever needed was a little bit more perseverance in training, a few more adjustments in the speed workouts we were doing, and believing in myself during the race. In the past, I used to think that the sub-2:08 runners were superhumans in some way and would let them go in a different leading pack, but now I know that it is possible for any runner to run 2:07 with the right focus in training and in racing,” he added. 

For how long can a runner keep training hard without earning from it?


For how long can a runner keep training hard with no guaranteed opportunity to race and earn a living in the near future? This is a question that is now causing sleepless nights to most of the Kenyan runners staying at different training locations in the country after sporting activities were suspended, for a second time since the pandemic struck.

Only forty runners would have won prizes at the Eldoret City Marathon that was also postponed; twenty men and twenty women, but thousands of runners here have been affected so much by its cancelation. To many, it wasn’t just about the prizes, but an opportunity to run good times to enable them to get invitations to future races and to get into any management.

It takes time, resources, and hard work to train for a marathon.

The fact that Eliud Kipchoge will run Hamburg Marathon shows his immense confidence.

Eliud Kipchoge in his farm. Photo from his FaceBook Page

Eliud Kipchoge is already named in the Kenyan Olympic Marathon to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics later this year. Besides, he is the defending champion of the Olympic men’s marathon. He has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone by participating in the Hamburg marathon. He had the option to skip the Hamburg marathon and just wait for the Olympic marathon race, but he chose to compete and risk being beaten.

Hamburg is where Kipchoge started his marathon career in 2013 and it is such a great coincidence that after his dismal performance at his last race in London, he has chosen to come back again to Hamburg to “start all over again.”

However, unlike when he trained alone ahead of the 2020 London Marathon, this time around, the camps have been opened and he has been lucky to have the same company in training which he had before going for the world record in Berlin.

Kipchoge’s 10-race win streak ended at his last outing, the London Marathon on Oct. 4th last year after he placed eighth, but despite that, he is predicted to be one on the main favorites to win in Hamburg this upcoming April, according to the guys at SportsBettingDime.com

If he comes back and wins the Hamburg Marathon on the 11th of April, fans will easily forget all about his London's 8th place finish. However, it won’t come so easily for him given that the race seems to be the only one offering an opportunity for elite runners to set seasonal best times and meet qualifying times for the Olympics and to sign contracts. There could be many elite runners interested in running.

The NN team, in partnership with the Hamburg Marathon has organized this fast course marathon in order to offer runners an opportunity to run Olympic qualifying standards at a time like this when there are no marathons to run.

Why Kipchoge will run this marathon yet he already has the Olympic Marathon waiting for him, and a status to maintain as the world’s greatest marathon runner ever is probably because he believes in himself.

After all, he was able to run under two hours for the marathon when almost everyone else in the world, including scientists, believed that no human would possibly run under that time.

Kipchoge already proved that “no human is limited” in Vienna, he’ll be simply reminding us the same in Hamburg.

James Willis just ran 72km to mark his 72nd birthday and here is my interview with him.

James Willis in a past race. Photo from his Facebook Page

It is now the second month of my working with James Willis, coaching him under my online coaching programs

As a coach, one would often expect their runners to do slightly better than what they are doing at the moment. Rarely would they find them surpassing their expectations. But, here is one runner who definitely surpasses everyone’s expectations and who should be a great inspiration to many.
James Willis just ran 72 km as he turned 72 years old today (21st January 2021). Most runners would struggle to run 72km in a whole week. To run 72 km in a single day, for a 72-year-old, is just mind-boggling! And, as if that is not enough, he is preparing to run a 168km race in April!

Here is an interview I had with Willis, who is from London, UK, but now lives in Banting, Malaysia; a few days before his birthday run:

1. What inspires you to keep running at your age?

My inspiration to keep running at my age is purely so that I can and still be competitive to some degree. I love running and perhaps one day in the future, when I am no longer competitive, I will just run for pleasure only.

2. How does your life feel when you are running compared to when you had stopped running at some point?

I came to running quite late. I was an all-round sports child, but Rugby was my first love and the only running I did was while training for other sports.

It is quite a story how I first became a runner. Back in the day, it was compulsory for UK secondary schools [11 to 17 years] to hold a cross-country run each year as part of the physical education program.

Well, not being a runner during the first two years I never completed the three-mile event, I and many others would run to a thicket on the course, perhaps half a mile, and hide in there until many of the runners had passed us on their way back and then slip into the bunch for the return journey. Of course, we thought we were so clever.

In year three, now thirteen years old and an accomplished rugby player, things changed.

Mental preparation for race day among Kenyan runners

Wilson Kiprop, the 2010 world half-marathon champion,
versus Bedan Karoki at a local race in Kenya

An athlete may have done enough training to run well in a race, but without the right mentality going into the race, all the training might become useless.

They say that experience is the best teacher, and if there is one place that this applies more, it should definitely be with the mental preparation among Kenyan runners getting ready to run their dream races. Some learn about the best ways to deal mentally with their races through experience while others are taught by a coach or by fellow runners.

One of the runners that have impacted me more on how to be tough and courageous in a race is Wilson Kiprop, the 2010 world half marathon champion. He told me how determined he was to finish in a podium place at a local race before no one ever knew about him. He had never finished in the top ten positions at any big race before. But here, the race meant everything to him. He had no more food where he stayed away from home, no money, and no one to ask for help. He was in Nairobi and he wanted to win some money at the cross country race to enable him to travel back to Eldoret. The race was paying the top three finishers only.

A quick reflection of my online coaching in 2020

Some of the runners I coach training in Kaptagat Forest, Kenya.

2020 has been a year full of many challenges and hard times, but the determination and the results from the runners that I coach online did provide me with some moments to cherish out of what was arguably the worst year for many.

In a world where people are easily being fooled into buying well packaged but useless items, the past year taught me to always offer the best quality in whatever I do and to make sure that my clients get value for their money.

Even when there were no races to run for some, most of my clients nonetheless ran their personal best times in their training runs.

One of them is Terrence. He recently ran some personal best times in some of his training runs, and seeing the effects that my training program had done on him, decided to pay for up to six months of my online coaching in advance. I thought he wanted to do that to get some discount, but instead, he wrote, “Am extremely pleased with the results so far and I believe in value for money. So no further discount required.”

Monaco 5K live streaming video

 

My first track visit this year in Eldoret Kenya

Athletes training at Kipchoge Stadium in Eldoret

On a typical track intervals day, a visit to one of the busy tracks in Eldoret, Kapsabet, or Iten is enough to show one the level of competition and the depth of the athletic talents in the country.

At 7:00 AM, it was a cold and cloudy morning in Eldoret on Tuesday the 12th of January 2021. This would usually be a warm, sunny, and dusty morning every other year, but the weather was quite different this time around. With some light clouds blocking the sun, it was good for both the runners who got cool weather to push harder in their intervals and for the photographers who didn’t have to find the right direction to face while taking their pictures.

Most of the tracks in the country had been closed after the social distancing rules were set. But these restrictions have recently been lessened and some sporting activities have begun to be held in the country, and so have the track facilities also been opened for the runners as well.

Judging from the level of the overgrown grass on the field and from the conversations I had with the runners and coaches on the track, it was the first track visit for most of them.

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