10 SEP 2000 General News

Simon Biwott Profile

Simon Biwott
Pat Butcher

11 September 2000 - To be a runner in Kenya is to entertain the same dreams of fortune as the meanest immigrant to the USA over the last century. When Simon Biwott, who won one of the world's elite marathons in Berlin on Sunday, left school in Kenya a half dozen years ago, the best job he could find was operating a roadside sales kiosk.

But he had two things going for him. One, his home town of Eldoret has more Olympic gold medallists per square metre than the pages of Forbes magazine has millionaires, and two, an old school friend Eric Kimaiyo was setting up one of the training camps, which is producing top marathoners the way Henry Ford turned out Model T's.

Within two years of joining Kimaiyo's camp at Kapsait – where women's world record holder Tegla Loroupe comes from - Biwott had finished ninth in the world championships in Seville last summer, and run 2hr 07min 41sec, a marathon time better than all but the national record of 15 countries worldwide.

But all was not sweetness and light. A foot injury which prevented him running beyond 30 kilometres in training - no bad thing you might say - kept him out of competition for most of the year. But he decided to pace some friends in Berlin.

When he got to 28k, he saw that the only two men left in contention were suffering more than him. So he kept going, and joined an elite bunch of party-poopers, such as Tom Byers, an American miler who achieved instant celebrity by beating world record holder, Steve Ovett in Oslo in 1981, and Paul Pilkington, who won the Los Angeles Marathon in 1994.

Biwott returns to Eldoret, "for a good rest," in the hope that the foot heals completely. He admits it may be psychological, since he didn't feel it at all in winning. He then wants to train up for next year's World Championships in Edmonton. "I'd like to try it again, and do better". He's not doing at all bad, as it is.

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