James Templeton has been, for much of my career, one of the most visible, powerful and communicative of athletic managers. James managed Bernard Lagat and Augustine Choge for their entire careers. James Templeton was the athletics manager for WR holder, 2 time Olympic gold medalist David Rudisha until the end of 2017.
James Templeton is in the US for the Chicago Marathons and NYC Marathons, where he will view the racing of Augustine Choge and Bernard Lagat in their marathon debuts. We thank James on his thoughtful comments on his career and his fine athletes.
RunBlogRun, #1, Q. It’s good to catch up with you again. It’s the first time it’s not been on the track. To remind people you’ve always been a track guy but am now getting involved in the marathon business.
JT: The track has always been my focus. Over twenty fun years with a small group of mainly Kenyans. I’m proud to have managed Bernard Lagat for over twenty years, proud too of twelve years with David Rudisha. But plenty of others who’ve given great memories. The names Japheth Kimutai, Kipkirui Misoi, Benjamin Kipkirui, Patrick Nduwimana, Boaz Lalang, Isaac Songok and of course Augustine Choge, who I’ll come to shortly. More recently, two young Aussie 800 runners Joe Deng and Peter Bol have kept me in the game….
RunBlogRun, #2, Q. Some great names for sure. So tell me what’s a track guy like you doing stateside in October?
JT. I’m over for the two big fall marathons. Both Augustine Choge in Chicago and Bernard Lagat in New York are making their marathon debuts. Which is incredibly exciting. And between the two races I’m taking the opportunity to travel a bit around the states, to catch up with a few of my track buddies in various cities.
RunBlogRun, #3, Q. Chicago has lined up a great field. Mo Farah and Galen Rupp have attracted the attention but there’s a host of great marathoners in the field. And quietly coming in for his debut is Augustine Choge. Such great track credentials over so many distances….
JT. It’s going to be something very special to me watching Augustine in Chicago. Hard to put into words. It’s been such a great journey. It takes me back to 2004 in Grosseto, Italy, going to follow him in the World Juniors. He won the 5000m, outkicking Tariku Bekele and later that summer, won the 5000 in ISTAF Berlin in 12:57. That’s fourteen years ago, but still there’s so much potential.
Augustine has always been a wonderful athlete, a great runner. He’s a great guy and very resilient, having had some bad luck with injury at crucial times. Unfortunately, he ran in Beijing in 2008 with what we found out to be a stress fracture. He made the final, but couldn’t give of his best. I believed he could have been a real contender for Rio 10,000 but alas, he slipped in the mud in the weeks after 3000m bronze in the world indoors in Portland.
Augustine has had a great track career without getting the medals that he perhaps deserved. Sometimes, that’s just how it goes. He’s run under 3:30 for 1500 and been ranked number one in the world. He’s won many top races in Kenya and on the circuit. He ran under 1:45 for 800 and has run under 60 for a half. And now we see what he’s got at the full distance.
Chicago could well open up a new chapter of his career…….could well lead to three or fours years as an elite marathoner.
He’s still got the youthfulness in his body. It’s still there. I’m a big believer in him. Ask Lagat about the potential of his friend, Augustine, he’d shake his head and say there’s nothing this man couldn’t do, that he has so much to give.
Chicago is a great race, a loaded field, obviously with Farah and Rupp the headliners. But it’s a great opportunity for Augustine and we can’t wait.
RunBlogRun, #4, Q. He’s (Augustine Choge) run a couple of good half’s in the last few years, are you confident he can transition to the full marathon?
JT. Well that’s the big unknown of course, isn’t it? We’ll know after twenty miles! He’s a training partner of Eliud Kipchoge, under the guidance of Patrick Sang. He’ll go into the race confident that he’s done the preparation.
RunBlogRun, #5, Q. You mention Lagat, of course there’s so much interest in his debut in New York.
JT. What can I say about Kip?! He’s had an amazing career, incredible longevity. But, he’s up for this, and so keen to run well. He’s just as single minded as ever, has moved up to Flagstaff for three months with his training partners Stephen Sambu (who’s running Chicago) and Juan Luis Barrios. That’s a fair sacrifice to be away from his family. But he’s so keen.
RunBlogRun, #6, Q. Kip has always come across as the consummate professional.
JT. That’s exactly right Larry. Kip has had an amazing career. He’s never taken it for granted, always been very diligent and dedicated in his preparations. Always had such consistency. He’s produced many great races over many years. He’s been a genuine challenger to Hicham and Bekele at their very best.
It’s been just a great career. Coach Li, of course, has been the perfect coach for him all this time. As I’ve spoken of before I think a small part of it all has been the unity of his support network….. the relationship between the three of Coach Li, Kip’s wife Gladys and I. We’ve been to five Olympics together the four of us! I think that’s quite special.
RunBlogRun, #7, Q. And what of the New York marathon. It’s incredible that Kip will be just a month shy of 44 years old. It’s hard to imagine.
JT. There’s little downside for Kip it’s just a great opportunity. He’s never been a big mileage guy that’s been well known. But they’ve built up gradually and he’s been getting in his share of 18 and 20-milers. A couple of creaks and groans here and there but he seems to be absorbing the work. Standing on that start line he’ll relish the opportunity. I’ll be with Gladys and the kids. Miika and Gianna will be cheering him on loudly as he comes into Central Park. Just fantastic stuff…..
RunBlogRun, #8, Q. How fast can Bernard Lagat run a marathon?
JT. I don’t know, none of us do. We’ll soon find out. But that’s not what any of us are talking of. The focus is on his preparations and adapting to some longer work. He’s excited and as keen as ever.
RunBlogRun, #9, Q. One last thing, I must ask about David Rudisha. You haven’t spoken much about it, however, I understand you stopped working with him at the end of 2017.
JT. Yes. I felt like we’d reached the end of the road. Winning a second Olympic gold in Rio was a great achievement. It’s been tough for him moving on from that, and maintaining any sort of training intensity. There’ve been too many invitations, inevitably, a lot of distractions in Kenya. I felt that he wasn’t going to be as committed to training as he needed to be. I’m sure he’s still motivated by the Olympics, but four years is a long period as you get older. I’m not sure he’ll just turn on the tap as he probably thinks. Time will tell.
RunBlogRun, #10, Q. Why was David Rudisha’s London 2012 performance so amazing?
JT. Rudisha between 2010 and 2012 was at the peak of his powers. He was physically at his peak and he was hungry and focused. It was his optimum time. He’d broken his world records and was close to invincible.
But there was a lot of pressure on him in 2012. It was his first Olympics and it’s never easy ars the guy who ‘can’t lose’. To handle that pressure; to produce a great performance on the biggest stage is something to be very proud of. There can’t be anything much more impressive than front-running a world record in an Olympic final.
RunBlogRun, #11, Q. Were you surprised by Rudisha’s 2016 win?
JT. No not at all. I was very confident he would win. In many ways I was more confident than in 2012. He had been through the pressure of London and dominated and I knew he was ready again to run 1:41. Which was always going to be too good. He didn’t do it but he was close with 1:42.15 in Rio.
He had been surprisingly written off in the days before the Olympic Trials by those supposedly closest to him. But that was always a lazy and superficial judgement. I knew what his shape was like, I’d seen him in training in USA and Australia earlier in the year and also a very good period in TÃ¼bingen in Germany in the summer. He was dominant in his semi-final and despite the best efforts of his teammates in the final, he was just too good. Running three strong races in five days under pressure of the Olympics is beyond a lot of athletes.