Introducing Philemon Kacheran
Setting a marathon PB in each of his first three races over the 42.2km distance, Philemon is a rising talent within the NN Running Team. We chat to the Kenyan 2:06 marathoner to find out more of his ongoing story.
Chip off the old block
Born the fourth eldest of six siblings on a small farm in the county of West Pokot, Philemon believes his running genes were handed down from his father.
“My dad was a good athlete at school,” explains Philemon, who hails from the same county as former world women’s marathon record-holder and ex-New York Marathon champion Tegla Loroupe.
“He won over 5000m and 10,000m at school but he never ran professionally,” adds Philemon of his father.
It was at primary school where Philemon first discovered a gift for running. Good enough to place third over 10,000m at a regional competition – he just missed out on qualifying for the next stage by one place – but clearly had some running talent.
After leaving school he rented a house with a group of fellow runners and continued to train. Buying and selling flowers in order to support himself, financially life was not easy but despite this he produced the occasional good performance, placing in the top 20 in a competitive 12km cross country race in Eldoret.
In an effort to further develop his running ambitions, Philemon later moved to Eldoret, where he agreed to meet every day with a group of runners for training. Gradually he improved and his big breakthrough came in late-2016 after placing fourth in a local 10km race, recording 30:16.
“A friend of mine rang Valentijn (Trouw, Global Sports Communication manager of Kenyan athletes) to say that there was a capable, talented guy who had just finished fourth,” recalls Philemon. “I then received a call from Valentijn and that is how I joined Global.”
The move transformed his life. Moving to Kaptagat, Philemon could now focus 100 per cent on training and he has learned much from training everyday alongside superstar athletes such as Eliud Kipchoge and Geoffrey Kamworor.
“My training life is now very organised and this has allowed me to grow professionally,” he explains. “I no longer have to worry about what I was going to buy for cooking which allowed me to fully concentrate on training.
“I have also learned so much from Eliud. Firstly, that you need to be disciplined in a very broad sense and, secondly, when you get money you need to invest it wisely because a running career can be short.”
It took time for Philemon to adjust to the training demands with the gruelling 40km long runs proving challenging.
“I remember on one of my first 40km long runs, I almost fell down about 6km from the finish but I carried on, kept on going and made it to the end,” he recalls.
In 2017 he competed overseas for the first time, placing 9th over 15km in the iconic Seven Hills race in Nijmegen in 44:27 and the following month ran 10 seconds quicker over the same distance to place seventh in ‘s-Heerenberg.
“Competing in both races put me on the right path to achieving my dreams,” he explains. “But after that race I called Valentijn to say it would be better for me to train for the marathon because I prefer the longer distances.”
Green for go
Philemon opened his 2018 campaign with a 61:22 half marathon for eighth in Venlo, Holland before the following weekend clinching top spot over the 21.1km distance in Paderborn, Germany in 61:54.
The performances were solid and further convinced the Kenyan of his marathon future.
“I still felt I finished both races with some energy,” he explains. “I was anxious to see what would happen in the marathon. My coach Patrick Sang then gave me the green light to step up to the marathon distance.”
Philemon made his eagerly-awaited marathon debut in Cape Town in September, 2018. Concerned he may crack around 36-37km because this was the period he often started to struggle during long runs, he nonetheless maintained a nice rhythm in the latter stages to place third in 2:09:13.
“I was very happy with my first marathon,” explains Philemon.
Lifted by his performance in South Africa and running on a faster course he hoped to run a time of around 2:08 for his second marathon in Barcelona in March 2019. However, the long-limbed athlete went on to exceed expectations to record 2:07:12 – one place behind training partner Anthony Maritim and ahead of fellow Kaptagat-based team-mates, Laban Mutai and Laban Korir.
“Following all the hard training sessions, I felt this was the race where I really delivered,” he says.
After featuring as one of the pacemaker for Eliud Kipchoge in the INEOS 1:59 Challenge last October he ended his 2019 season in style with a 2:06:05 clocking to place fifth in the Valencia Marathon – to maintain his streak of continual improvement over the 42.2km distance.
“I’m now much better able to handle the long runs in training,” he adds: “I’m now able to stay with Eliud without being dropped on the long runs. This is very positive because initially it was hard (to keep up with Eliud on the longer runs).”
In the longer term, Philemon hopes to run a 2:04 marathon but above all he is delighted how his running career has flourished, which has allowed him to radically overhaul the life of his family.
“Now that I am a professional runner, I’m in a position to support my parents and help pay school fees for my siblings,” he adds.