Renowned Kenyan marathoners Martin Lel and Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot spoke last weekend in Nairobi with Saddique Shaban in an exclusive interview for the IAAF website about their hopes respectively for next year’s London and Boston marathons.
Next year in the British capital, Lel will be aiming for his fourth London victory. This is a feat which Cheruiyot similarly achieved in the Boston race this year, and he'll return to the US east coast city with the aim of a fifth victory in 2009.
Wanjiru the key to World record target
At a Shoe4Africa race in Kibera suburb of the Kenyan capital on Saturday (13), Lel and Cheruiyot played in charitable football match - see 'Related Content' for previous story. Lel was in particularly confident mood that afternopn declaring his intention to break Haile Gebrselassie’s World record (2:03:59) for the marathon in 2009.
“Many people have told me I have what it takes to break it (World marathon record), and with time, I have come to believe them,” said Lel.
Paul Tergat, the last Kenyan to hold the World marathon record, had attended Saturday's Kibera football match to lend his support to the charitable effort. Had Tergat suggested the record attempt?
“No. On the contrary, we didn’t talk about the record at all. But I admire what Paul Tergat has achieved and I would be honoured to achieve even more!” enthused Lel.
What about the presence of Olympic champion Samuel Wanjiru in the London race, won’t that make it difficult to concentrate on a record attempt, when winning alone with such an opponent present is going to be a task in itself?
“I have run with Samuel Wanjiru in a number of races including marathons in London and Beijing, and I am convinced beyond any doubt that he is the man I need in London in 2009.”
Coincidentally, the desire to break the record originated from the Olympic champion and the World Half Marathon record holder himself.
“After running together at the BUPA Half marathon last year (2007 Great North Run in Newcastle, UK, which Lel won and Wanjiru was second), Wanjiru spoke about the possibility of setting a new world order in the Marathon,” confirmed Lel.
“This (joint) conviction became stronger after he won the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan and I won the New York Marathon in the same year. We have since spoke about it variously. His words then were simple as they are now, we can own the record. I think it a declaration whose time has come,” stated Lel.
But Wanjiru beat you in Beijing!
“I know. But I thank the Almighty God for my incredible performance (2:10:24) under the circumstances. Unknown to many, I was suffering from a combinational blow of malaria and amoeba attack”.
2012 the goal
At the mention of the Olympics, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, who during the conversation has been beside Lel, nodded and sighed, ruing his own missed Olympic chance.
Cheruiyot has now fully recovered from a nagging hip injury that ruled him out of the Beijing Olympics, and has since moved a substantial part of his training programme to the high altitude area of Eldoret in Kenya’s Rift Valley.
“I want to stay closer to Martin Lel as we both are on a recovery programme, but I shall also maintain my training base in Ngong.”
2012 is Cheruiyot’s goal as an athlete, but he is planning to make a statement of intent at next summer’s World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, Germany, where “I’ll take the first step towards bringing home to Kenya the second (Olympic) gold medal in the marathon in 2012 in London.”
But first there is next year’s Boston marathon to consider.
By winning this year’s 112th running of the race (21 April 2008), Cheruiyot became the first man to take four Boston Marathon titles since Bill Rodgers in 1980.
Boston, “it’s my second home. Though the course is always challenging, the hospitality of the local people is always something to look forward to. I will be back in Boston on the 20 April 2009 to possibly win another title,” confirmed Cheruiyot.
Cheruiyot has recently gone through a religious conversion, which will necessitate a few changes for athletics statisticians in the coming months.
“I made a decision to convert to Islam this year and I will soon be going by my new name – Ahmed Omar Kipkoech Cheruiyot. I have since realized that faith, humility and success are inseparable.”
Saddique Shaban - Kenya Television Network- for the IAAF