No sooner had Kenya’s Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor deposed the dominant half marathon runner of the past decade, Zersenay Tadese, at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships than he was setting his sights even higher – at the world record of 58:23 set by the man who has won five golds and a silver in the past six editions of this event.
“For me now the main goal is to run a world record for the half marathon,” said Kipsang, who won in 59:08, the world’s fastest time this year and 14 seconds slower than his personal best, set at the Ras Al Khaimah event last February, and which was the fastest time recorded in 2013. “I cannot predict right now where it will be, but I know I can run a faster race.”
Ending Tadese’s outstanding string of medals at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships was always likely to be not just a physical, but a mental challenge.
“I was mentally prepared, so I had no problem,” the 21-year-old said. “My main goal was to go for the gold.”
That mental resolve was mirrored by his physical application on the day. He was always up with the leading group, and once he hit the front he looked relaxed but utterly determined to remain there.
“I wanted to win gold – this was my main goal,” he said. “I was the fastest runner at the half marathon last year so I expected to win. But I knew it was going to be tough. I knew Tadese and the Eritrean team were strong, and the Ethiopians.
“I was prepared to win from the 10km mark. I was feeling strong and I decided to go. What really assisted me were the people along the course. They were cheering, and I was getting a lot of strength from that, feeling that I could win.”
Kipsang said he had taken a lot from training regularly in Kenya with Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, winner of the Olympic and world marathon titles.
“Training with a world and Olympic champion made me really inspired to win a world title myself,” he said.
“We are used to calling him the gold medallist. I wanted to fight so that I could also be called a gold medallist. Maybe in future I can be a gold medallist in the marathon as well.
“For me now the main goal is the world half marathon record. But after that, maybe in October, I can compete again in the marathon. I have already run 2:06.”
That timing – 2:06:12 – earned him third place at the 2012 Berlin Marathon. But it is clear that this ambitious young runner can improve upon that highly respectable mark if he sets his mind to it.
As high as Kipsang’s ambitions are, he made it clear that he still has his feet on the ground.
“I would like to defend this title two years from now,” he said. “But I will first have to qualify for the Kenyan team. “
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF