WILSON KIPROP GOES BACK TO HIS ROOTS, by Justin Lagat
Wilson Kiprop, World Half Marathon Champion and African 10,000m Champion, lost his grandfather, who had been battling with asthma, this past weekend on 16th June (Fathers’ Day). My condolences go to him and his family. He has had to miss training for a few days to be with family and friends and to arrange for the funeral. I hope he will be back again in shape to qualify and represent Kenya in Moscow during the national trials scheduled for next week.
At the Uasin Gishu County track and field championships that happened a few weeks ago in Eldoret, I observed that most of the top three finishers in the long distance events came from Kapseret, an area situated 15km from Eldoret town and surrounding the Eldoret International Airport. One of them was Wilson Kiprop. His training mates would follow closely to finish in impressive positions. We met later on during that day of the championships and he told me about his new training base and plans about the new training camp he is establishing at Kapseret and I promised to give him a visit to check on him and his new group.
I was so impressed by this camp, when I visited him about a week ago, to an extent that, right now as I write this article, I have already moved in and joined it! One thing that baffled me is that the members were only seven at the time of my visit, but they got mentioned many times at the county championships, while other camps that had more than 200 athletes in them could hardly get an athlete in the top three positions. Everything here also seems to cost half what it costs in the other training destinations around Eldoret and the weather and routes are the best.
When he issued me with a printed copy of this month’s training program, I could not help noticing that it was more of a half marathon training program than a 10,000m, of which he replied that while he will be seeking to run the 10,000m at the World Championships, his main focus at the moment is the World Half Marathon Championships slated for March next year. He is also hoping that all his training mates will all post impressive times when they go out to run road races early next year. He said he is determined to ensure that every member in the group gets in the right shape at that time to an extent that winning a race will not be a matter of crapshoots, but a sure venture.
I was welcomed into the group with a 25km long run on a very tough hilly course this Monday which started with a 33 minute downhill course, and as we kept descending, my worries kept increasing as this only meant one thing; a long ascend back to camp. The other part of the course became hills and valleys before finally reaching the last part which was a constant hard climb of about 30 minutes.
Even after seeing the finish line at some distance ahead as we ran in a single file, I had doubts of reaching there. Thoughts of quitting or stopping for a minute before resuming the run kept coming to my mind. With only 50 meters to the finish, where the first three athletes were already there holding their knees as they bent over to recover, my legs could not move anymore and I finished the distance by walking! The time was 1hr 32 minutes. I swore I was not going to run the evening run again, but the guys were able to convince me and we went again for a 40 minute easy run at 4pm.
Wilson Kiprop visited me later that evening and as we spoke, I learned much more about why he is so passionate about ensuring that the new camp here becomes the best in the world. He told me that this is the exact place where he began to rise from nothing, as he would train at dawn then go to the airport at 8am to look for any casual work he could find. Sometimes he could carry building blocks around, fetch water in a wheelbarrow, cut timber, plane wood, etc. Despite all this, he would still go for an evening run before retiring to his “rocket” (an abandoned house at some woods near the airport) for the night. His training here began to bear fruits from 2008 up to 2010 when he reached the pinnacle of his career by winning the World Half Marathon Championships.
Since the time he shifted his training base to Iten, later in 2010, he began seeing a lot of disappointing performances with many injuries to go with them. As he said this, I could not help but remember Priscah Jeptoo, the London Marathon winner, telling me the same last year when I interviewed her for RunBlogRun. Well, it gives me courage to also say it myself that Iten was never the best place for me too while I was there in 2011.
For now, he wants to move back to the place that made him succeed in his life. He says he is not going to be coached again by Renato Canova. If he could train here with the hardships he had and then rise to become a world champion, how much will he be able to accomplish now that he has enough experience, a squad to train together, sponsorship from adidas, and full time to train? I can only wait to see what will happen.
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