After her phenomenal 25Km World record * at the BIG 25, on Sunday, Mary Keitany is now looking ahead to her next challenge, who will be the Marathon.
The 28-year-old Kenyan became the first woman to dip below 1:20 over 25 kilometers when she ran 1:19:53 on Sunday in the German capital. In her first race at the distance Keitany smashed the World record* on the streets of Berlin, improving the mark by a staggering two minutes and 20 seconds. With this performance she has given another strong indication that she is capable of becoming the world’s next great Marathon runner. At the 2012 Olympics in London she hopes to not only win the event, but also plan an assault, at some point, on Paula Radcliffe’s legendary World record in the Marathon.
Born in Kenya's Baringo District, the daughter of a farmer’s family grew up in the Koibatek District - both in the Rift Valley Province. Of her three sisters and one brother, her oldest sister started running at school. “I saw that she was talented and thought that I should try this as well,” Keitany recalls. While her sister gave up despite running at the national level at school, Mary continued to eventually become one of the world’s top road runners. In 2009 Keitany dominated the World Half Marathon Championships, winning in 1:06:36, just 11 seconds shy of the World record. Over the weekend she was named the AIMS/ASICS World Athlete of the Year.
Although she began running at school, it wasn't until she was a secondary school student of 18 that she began to train more seriously. And it wasn't until the end of 2006 that she would appear in Europe for the first time when she contested a Half Marathon and a road race in Spain. At that time Keitany was coached by Philip Singoei, who won the Eindhoven Marathon in 2007 with 2:07:57.
“In April 2007 Gianni Demadonna opened a training camp in Iten, which is where Mary lives,” explained her current coach Gabriele Nicola, who works for Demadonna’s management firm. Keitany soon joined in and then step by step Nicola took over as a coach.
“In Iten I train with boys," Keitany said. "My manager pays them to help us in training.” Here female training partners include Peninah Arusei, the winner of the BIG 25 Berlin in 2008 and 2009, and Helena Kirop, who won the Prague Marathon on Sunday. In 2007 Keitany won the silver medal at the World Half Marathon Championships, but then pregnancy temporarily interrupted her running career. Her son Jared was born in June 2008.
Keitany is married to Charles Koech, a runner with 27:56 10Km and 1:01:27 Half Marathon credentials. “Sometimes we train together. And we have a nanny to look after our son.”
“When Mary came back after giving birth we set some goals," said Nicola, who spends a lot of time overseeing the training of his runners in Iten. "The first (goal) was to qualify for the World Half Marathon Championships in 2009 and to run well. The next goal was to win the Abu Dhabi half marathon, and then we set our sights on breaking the world 25 k record in Berlin. All went very well and she has achieved more than we had expected. But we have a team of coaches and physios in Iten, so that there is always someone there to help.” Now, the next step will be the marathon.
In autumn Keitany plans to make her debut at the distance. But she is already putting in the mileage that suits a marather.
“Of course it can vary a lot, but she has run between 180 and 200 kilometres in her recent training already”, said Nicola, who intends to add more kilometres to her weekly total during her preparation phase.
“So far my longest training runs were 30 kilometres”, Keitany said. Asked about her biggest goals, she first mentions the Olympics in London in 2012. “It would be huge to win the Olympic gold medal in the marathon.” But there is also another major dream in the future: “Maybe one day I am able to attack the world marathon record,” but she knows full well how tough that will be.
“Right now we cannot speak about the marathon world record," Nicola said. "But Mary has the potential to go for it in the future. That does not mean that she will break it. But there are not many runners who can even think of attacking this record."
“Mary has great potential, we are lucky to have her. We will only get a Mary Keitany every 20 years.”
Jörg Wenig (organizers) for the IAAF
* pending the usual ratification procedures