New Marathon strategy for Kenya, from AFP (and EME News)


chicagoraces156.jpgChumba racing Chicago, photo from Bank of America Chicago Marathon

New Marathon strategy for Kenya, from AFP (and EME News)

NAIROBI (KEN): Athletics Kenya has announced that their marathoners for Rio 2016 will be selected in a trial race in February, report AFP. The top three men and women will make the Kenyan team; selected athletes will not be allowed to run a marathon between February and the Olympics. This is part of a new strategy which is hoped to result in the country performing at a higher level at major championships.

Editor's comments: For many years, the high quality of Kenyan male and female distance runners was such that, no matter how competent or incompetent that the Kenyan Federation was, the quality of the athletes won out.

The recent drug cheating controversies showed that some did not understand: there are no short cuts. It also showed that some in the Federation did not believe that such a problem existed in Kenya. Great distance running comes from hard work, smart racing and focus. How could fine Kenyan athletes use drugs?

The Kenyan Federation has been under much scrutiny from inside Kenya and out. A national tradition, distance running has been debased, on their watch. Someone has to answer.

Short cuts have dirtied the reputation of many great runners who are clean, but who have been associated with cheating in their country. It is not fair, but, it is the fact of the times.

It is important to see that first steps are being done to clean up the sport in Kenya, but, it will take much time and diligence.

As there are no easy answers to end drug cheating in Kenya, there are no easy answers on how to send the best athletes to a World Championships or an Olympics.

I think it is fantastic that the Federation is looking to find answers on how to send the right Kenyan team to Rio in the marathon. But, they must be careful not to over react.

It is quite obvious that there are runners who chase times and runners who succeed in championships. The surreal world of global marathons has hurt some of the best Kenyan athletes, who do not know how to race in a championship due to relying on pace making.

The recent poor performances of Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto in Beijing are a case in point. Not prepared for the slow early pace, and then, the gradual, but increasing drive to the finish that a championship race entails, some are surprised when fast runners flounder in major championships. I felt bad that two such fantastic runners were obviously not prepared for the conditions. It is a different skill set.

Most medals in World Champs and Olympics are run where times are not exceptional. In many cases, the athletes who win medals have focused on the championship race, and who have prepared to race using championship tactics. The athletes who have the drive, the focus and the determination win out.

The skills of a great racer are cultivated over years of racing. Talent has to be there, desire has to be there, but each athlete's journey to reach that success is unique. Sophisticated coaching, and an understanding of the athlete, his or her needs and the challenges ahead are not found in a federation rule book.

Kudos to the Kenyan Federation on coming up with a strategy to pick and protect its marathon team for Rio. One wonders how much collaberation that there has been between elite athletes, coaches, and the Federation. One hopes that is the case.

Is it the right method?

We will not know until next summer...

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