Updated 10 October 2007
Francis KIBIWOTT, Kenya (Half Marathon)
Born 15 September 1978, Kasiela, Baringo District, Rift Valley
Manager: Jos Hermens
Training: Nyahururu town, Laikipia District (200km from Nairobi)
Francis Kibiwott is something of an oddity in Kenyan athletics. At the 2007 World Road Running Championships in Udine, he will be making his national team debut at 29 - an age when most Kenyan athletes are usually on their way out of the national scene.
The fourth born in a family of six, Kibiwott attended Kasiela Primary School in his home village and joined Baringo High School for his O Level education until the year 2000. He didn’t run much in high school, just doing so for fun. But, after completing school, he went to Nyahururu, where he started serious training.
It was here that Kibiwott met Martin Venhauzen, a Dutch athlete who was so impressed by his training that he made plans for him to run in Europe. KIbiwott’s first European competition was the 20k Alphem Race in Amsterdam, in March 2002, where he finished 13th.
He returned to Kenya in August, continued training, and, in March 2003, returned to Holland, finishing 3rd in the Alphem 20k in 58:34. In September he claimed his first Dam tot Damloop title, winning the 10-mile race held between Amsterdam and Zaandam in 45:44.
A hamstring injury kept Kibiwott out for the remainder of the year but he was back in January 2004, finishing 3rd in the Egmon Half Marathon before a severe bout of typhoid sent him back to the sidelines. In September he finished 4th in attempting to defend his Dam tot Damloop title.
Kibiwott began his 2005 season in March by finishing 2nd in a 10k road race in Paderborn, Germany, in 28:34 before suffering knee injury in May. After a further three months out of action, he travelled to his favourite Dam tot Damloop race in September and finished 2nd.
A recurrence of the knee injury saw him sit out the latter part of the year but, in September 2006, Kibiwott proved his mettle as a formidable distance runner by reclaiming his Dam tot Damloop title (45:27). Kibiwott outsprinted the then World Half Marathon champion, Tanzanian Fabiano Joseph.
Five days later, Kibiwott added the Luxemborg Half Marathon title (60:29). He then checked in for the Hutch Delhi Half Marathon a week later and, as sole leader throughout, he went onto clock an event record of 1:01.36 in hot and humid conditions.
“Breaking the course record wasn’t on my mind, but I ran as fast as possible,” Kibiwott said then. He then turned his attention to the most lucrative mountain race in the world –the Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race in November. Running in his first mountain race Kibiwott produced a commanding victory.
With a $50,000 first prize as incentive, fierce competition was witnessed between the invited African athletes, who were inexperienced at mountain running, and the traditional mountain runners from Europe, America and New Zealand.
At the seven kilometre point, then world mountain running champion Rolando Ortiz of Colombia, and five times champion, Jonathan Wyatt of New Zealand, were in a group of seven. With three kilometres to go, Ortiz and Kibiwott had dropped all the opposition and it was the Kenyan who went on to win, breaking the course record by five minutes in 42:26. That capped a memorable year for the athlete who had defied medical advice to have surgery on his injured left knee but instead chose physiotherapy.
This year, Kibiwott opened his season with 4th placing in Ras Al Khaimah International Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates and, in April, he finished 2nd in the Berlin Half Marathon (59:26). In July, he also won the BUPA Great Wales 10km Run in 28:36.
Recapping on his career, Kibiwott said: “When I was in school, I loved competing against others and I enjoyed running. I was coached by Bernard Kitirit in high school, where I competed against the likes of Benson Cherono.
When schools closed, I could not continue running because there was no one to coach me. I was denied an opportunity to nurture my talent and I started late. If I’d had a coach things would have been different for me.
“The money I have made has helped me sustain my parents. I bought land in Mochongoi and settled them there.” But he is settled in Nyahururu, “I like Nyahururu since it borders my home district - Baringo and Laikipia,” he said.
Looking ahead to Udine, he said: “What is important for us is to have teamwork. If we work together then we shall prosper. We need to put jealousy aside, and work for each other.”
Half Marathon: 2006 – 60:29; 2007 – 59:26
Half Marathon: 59:26
September 2003 1st, Dam tot Damloop 10 miles
September 2006 1st, Dam tot Damloop 10 miles
September 2006 1st, Luxembourg Half Marathon
October 2006 1st, Hutch Delhi Half Marathon
November 2006 1st, Obudu Ranch Mountain Race
February 2007 4th Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon
April 2007 2nd Berlin Half Marathon
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2007