Pat Butcher, our global runner, puts the amazing performance by Eliud Kiptanui, in his second marathon, into perspective! A 2:05:29, and a seven minute improvement suggests that Mr. Kiptanui could be someone we will see often on the world stage…..we have posted Pat’s
newest column, for your consideration…
WITH ONE BOUND…
In a little over two hours on Sunday morning, Eliud Kiptanui erupted
into the athletics public conciousness with all the impact of an
He didn’t stop the planes flying, but this hitherto unknown distance
runner, with a 2.12.17 debut in a little noticed marathon in Kenya five
months ago, did stop the clock at 2.05.39, to win the Volkswagen Prague
Marathon by over a minute and a half.
On a renowned difficult course around the Czech capital, with
several kilometres of cobblestones – as someone said, a proper marathon
course, not a world record track – Kiptanui beat last year’s course
record of 2.07.48 (already a minute faster than the previous record of
a decade ago), by over two minutes. In an era of burgeoning marathon
times, that made him the sixth fastest of the year, and the 17th man on
the all-time list. And he will not be 21 until June 6.
Kiptanui was due to go to the Vienna Marathon three weeks ago, but
the volcanic ash over Europe kept his plane grounded in Nairobi. His
manager, Volker Wagner looked around for another race, but with budgets
spent, his best offer came from Prague, and that was “prize money only,
no hotel, no food, no nothing,” said Wagner, who lives a six hour drive
away, in Germany, and duly bought Kiptanui here by road just the day
The youngster rewarded himself and his manager with a 75000 euro
pay-day, and will now be dealing with the likes of New York, Chicago
and Berlin for future freelance employment. “First, he had to extend
his training by three weeks, and this course is not easy,” opined
Wagner. “In Vienna or anywhere with a better surface, he would have run
a minute faster”.
Before you dismiss this as manager-speak, consider the following;
when compatriot Denis Ndiso shot off through a 62.33 first half on
Sunday, though Kiptanui was leading the chasing pack most of the time,
he kept his head, and led his seven rivals (at that point) through a
more temperate 63.16 ‘half’.
But when Kiptanui put the boot in, first at 30k, then at 35k, and
disposed of the rest, including world champs fourth placer Yemane
Tsegay of Ethiopia – Ndiso had long been caught – the youngster ran his
second half in the same time as Ndiso’s first – 62.33! A negative split
of some three quarters of a minute.
And so to young Mr Kiptanui. Like many of his country boy colleagues
– he comes from Kaptagat (c3000m altitude), near Eldoret – he is
soft-spoken to the point of silence. But though his performances, or
certainly this latter one speak volumes, he did offer that he is fourth
in a family of six, and that he already decided to run long distance at
school, “because the middle-distance was too competitive”.
To those of us in the First World, with state schooling and other
social benefits, it comes as something of a surprise to discover that
Kenyan families, no matter how poor, have to pay for their children’s
schooling. Many, like Kiptanui do not finish their education.
Beginning serious running at school four years ago, when he was 16, he
says, “I couldn’t continue with my studies, my family was too poor”.
Hence his reponse when asked what he would do with his prize money, “My
brothers and sisters are still in school, I have to assist them”.
Training outside of any recognised group, it was a 15k race in
nearby Eldoret two years ago that persuaded Kiptanui that he could make
the grade. “I was ninth in 47 minutes (at 2000m altitude), but everyone
in front of me was a top runner,” he says.
He did get a trip to Norway last summer, to make the pace in a track
3k ( he ran 8.04, his only recorded performance in the IAAF bios, until
Sunday), but it was the marathon in torrid conditions in Kisumu last
December that brought him to Wagner’s attention. “Last time I was in
Kenya, Isaac Boit introduced me to this guy. When I heard the
conditions of the race in Kisumu, I knew he could do under 2.10, maybe
Now Wagner was talking to his charge about one of the top races,
“Chicago would be my preference for him, he could break the course
record there. But you won’t have to spend so much time leading, being a
pacemaker for others,” he told Kiptanui.
“I like leading,” replied Kiptanui, “but I also drop back, so I can
I can look at the others”. The television replays of the race later
confirmed that smart strategy.
He didn’t know the guy on the black and white poster in the
athletes’ hotel, but was intrigued to hear that local hero Emil Zatopek
is the only athlete in history to be honoured with a statue in the park
of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.
Certainly, Zatopek’s like will never be seen again. But a few more
performances similar to the one in Prague last Sunday, and Eliud
Kiptanui’s likeness will be all over the show.
May 10, 2010 posting from Globerunner.org.
Pat Butcher is a frequent contributor to Runblogrun. His blog, www.globerunner.org, should be on your daily reading list! Mr. Butcher travels the world, writing about some of the greatest marathons and road races on the planet.