Updated 17 August 2008
Martha KOMU, Kenya (Marathon)
Born: 23 March 1983, Gathanji, Nyahururu, Laikipia District, formerly in Kenya's Central Region, but now in Rift Valley
1.65m / 52kg
Coach: Jef Pontier
Team: Clermont Athlétisme Auvergne club
Sixth born out of 12; married to Simon Wanjohi Munyutu
Martha Komu made history of sorts when she lined up for the women’s Marathon at the Olympic Games, in Beijing, becoming the first Kenyan to represent a different country from her spouse at the same Olympics. While she was wearing a Kenyan vest, her husband, Simon Wanjohi Munyutu, was looking ahead to donning the “Bleu” of the French seven days later.
Komu was the surprise inclusion in Kenya’s Marathon team, getting the nod ahead of the more experienced 2005 Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo. Her lung bursting win in April’s Paris Marathon certainly caught the selectors’ eye and, representing Kenya for the first time in her career, she responded by finishing fifth in Beijing.
Without a doubt one of Kenya’s burgeoning female distance runners, Komu had won four of her five marathons going into Beijing. Born in Nyahururu district- an area that has produced its fair share of world class athletes - the sport is in her genes. Her dad used to run while elder brother Francis Komu is a reputable road racer in Kenya.
“My brother used to run and he made me want to follow in his footsteps since he was getting prizes and was getting to travel to different parts of the world,” Komu said.
She went to Nyakiambi and Lariak Primary schools finishing her formative education in 1996. The following year she joined Laikipia High school and it was here that she started running seriously. “I used to compete in Cross Country and 5,000 metres but I never got to the nationals, mostly reaching provincials,” she said.
In 1999, while still in high school, Komu competed at the National Secondary Schools Games and, in the t same year, she was eighth in the women’s 4K race at the National Cross Country Championships. In 2000, she was selected as one of the athletes who would represent the country at the Chiba Ekiden relay in Yokohama where Kenya won gold.
She competed in a couple of road races in 2001, most notably in the United States in May, where she won Microsoft-USO Defenders Ten-Mile Run at the Pentagon, smashing the women’s event record by 66sec in 55:40 after leading the entire race through Arlington and Washington. In September, she set her personal best for the Half Marathon (1:12.10) in Arusha, Tanzania.
Komu was back at the National Cross Country Championships in 2002 but failed in her quest to represent Kenya as she finished 19th in the short course senior women’s race. In 2003, she went to France with the help of her then manager. It was while there that she met her future husband. They were married in 2004 and, on 8 March 2005, she gave birth to a girl, Mary Wangui.
Out of the sport until 2006, Komu made her debut in Marathon in style in April, winning the Mont-Saint-Michel event (2:37.37). On 15 October, she made lined up in Reims Marathon, winning in 2:32.47.
Komu finished third in the women 8 km race at the annual Prisons Cross Country Championship in January 2007. The following month, she was 27th at the National Cross Country Championships, in Nairobi, in the senior women’s race. Two weeks later she attempted to make the team for Mombasa’s World Cross Country Championships but could only manage 29th.
Komu ran her first Rotterdam Marathon on 15 April, when she finished eighth in 2:45.01. Chastened by defeat, she went back to France, where she is based, and continued her training. In June, she clocked a personal best for 10km (32:51) in Langueux. In October, she successfully defended her Reims Marathon title in 2:32.47, ahead of compatriot Hellen Cherono (2:33:06).
In April 2008, Komu upset race favourite Worknesh Tola, from Ethiopia, to win the Paris Marathon in a personal best 2:25.33. The race was reduced to Komu against Tola in the final few kilometers and Komu finally pulled away in the closing 200m to win in a sprint.
Her husband then took more than 2 minutes off his personal best to place 11th in 2:09:24 in the men’s event and was selected to run for France. But the couple also achieved a unique record, according to marathon statistician Marty Post. Their combined time of 4:34:57 was the fastest by a married couple running in the same marathon. Post points out that Ukranians Oleksandr Kuzin (2:07:33) and Tetyana Hladyr (2:25:44) have the fastest combined personal best times (4:33:17), but they achieved those in different races on different dates.
Komu’s win alerted athletics officials in Kenya and they included her, with Catherine Ndereba and Salina Kosgei, in the Olympic team. “I am so delighted to have finally made the team after years of trying to get a chance,” Komu said.
Marathon: 2:25.33 (2008)
Half marathon: 1:12.10 (2001)
Marathon: 2006: 2:32:45; 2007: 2:32:47; 2008: 2:25:33
Half Marathon: 2001: 1:12.10: 2007: 1:12:48
2006: 1st, Reims Marathon (2:32.45)
2006: 1st, Mont-Saint-Michel Marathon (2:37.37)
2007: 8th, Rotterdam Marathon (2:45.01)
2007: 1st, Reims Marathon (2:32.47)
2008: 1st, Paris Marathon (2:25.33)
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008