Although Kenneth Mungara returns to Toronto on 16 October intent on winning his fourth Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon title it will be no easy task. Race director Alan Brookes has, once again, assembled a world class field worthy of the prestigious IAAF Silver Label bestowed upon the event.
Chief among Mungara’s opponents will be his 28-year-old Kenyan compatriot, Nixon Machichim Kipkoech, who is rounding into form at precisely the right time to prevent the sentimental coronation of Mungara.
A year ago Machichim finished fourth in the STWM with a personal best time of 2:08:22. Until the 2010 race that would have been a course record such is the current standard of this event. Now he can race knowing that the spotlight falls upon Mungara.
“I feel good, I've been able to train non stop for the last four months,” he said from his home in Nandi Hills, high up in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. “I'm confident I'll run 2:08 in Toronto if there are good weather conditions and if the pacemaker will do a good job until 30 kilometers."
“I feel I'm able to run 2:08. I am not sure if this is good enough to win the race but I'll do my best.”
Machichim was born and raised in the Kenyan ‘running capital’ of Eldoret but moved to Nandi Hills some fifty kilometres away. As part of Italian agent Gianni Demadonna’s group he has been preparing with others, such as Joseph Ngeny (2:08:10 in the 2009 Eindhoven Marathon) for Toronto. They run each day through the area known as much for its distance running as for its many tea plantations.
“I usually run around 190 to 200 kilometres per week, when I train very hard,” says Machichim. “I know this is not a lot for a top runner but, at the moment, I prefer to improve the quality of my training sessions. In the future I'll try my best and run longer.
“I'm training with seven or eight athletes who are real friends of mine. Among them, Joseph Ngeny is the strongest. He will be a pacemaker in Toronto this year for 30 kilometres.”
As they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! His current training program appears to be working fine. In April of this year he won the Linz Marathon in the Austrian city with a time of 2:09:37. That’s comparable to the shape he was in several months prior to running his personal best last year. He was 3rd in the 2010 Rome Marathon with a time of 2:09:08. Asked if he has raced since Linz he replies candidly.
“No, I haven't.” he says. “After the Linz marathon I took a few weeks break to rest. I started my preparation for Toronto in the middle of May. Toronto is a great race and it takes time to get ready for it.”
As a professional marathoner Machichim knows he has a limited time to excel, though he can draw inspiration from Mungara who is ten years his senior. Like his contemporaries everything he does is to focus completely on running. Many Kenyans invest their earnings in farms or other industries but Machichim is even delaying such endeavours because he fears they could cause distractions.
“No, I don't have any businesses as all my energy goes into training and running,” he reveals. “To start a business activity you have to have money and it takes years to get it. And, you have to run fast. When my career is over, I'll invest money earned from my running activity.
“I'm not married because I believe family is very important and at this time I would not have enough time to take care of a wife and kids as I wish.”
According to the staff of Demadonna Athletics Promotions Machichim can be counted on to locate other athlete clients when needed, the ‘go to guy’ of the group, who has a very professional approach to everything he does. That would bode well for his future. And what does that future look like?
“I'd like to help new athletes to do athletics using my experience as a top runner,” he responds.
For now the 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront is his primary focus and, in particular, giving Mungara a run for his money.
Paul Gains (organisers) for the IAAF