Mark Kiptoo had barely caught his breath after his impressive Marathon debut in Frankfurt last Sunday before he was turning his thoughts to what possibly will be his big challenge, a shot at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships title in Copenhagen next March.
The Kenyan surprised many people, except himself, with his run at the BMW Frankfurt Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, with the 37-year-old barely meriting a mention in most pre-race predictions, perhaps due to his age or the fact that it was his first time over the classic distance.
However, Kiptoo coped better with the swirling winds and lashing rain than all but one of his more experienced, but younger, marathon rivals to take the runner-up spot in 2:06:16, just one second behind the winner, his compatriot Vincent Kipruto.
It was a bravura performance from Kiptoo, who made the move which broke the pack after 25km, and then forged ahead with Kipruto five kilometres later, before finally losing out in a thrilling sprint finish on the famous red carpet inside Frankfurt’s deafening indoor arena, the Festhalle.
Kiptoo, who only started competitive running at the age of 27 after being cajoled into competing in a Kenyan air force inter-wing event, will seek advice on where to race next on his return to Kenya, where his small training group is guided by Sammy Rono.
However, after lowering his Half Marathon best to 1:00:42 when winning the famous Medio Maratón Azkoitia-Azpeitia in Spain this March, there’s little doubt he would relish the opportunity to compete for his country in Copenhagen on 29 March.
“Given a chance I would like to try,” he said. “I ran two half marathons this year. I won in Spain and also I ran in Iowa [in Des Moines where he clocked 62:27], so I know that given the chance I can try to win.
“If I get selected I would be very keen to run. I would be ready for it and I would focus on it,” he added.
“I am happy for the chance I was given to run my first Marathon in this event, and if I got a chance in the Half Marathon I would like to take it. If the selectors give me the opportunity, I think I would be able to run a PB in that race too.”
If selected, it would be Kiptoo’s first outing at a global championship for his country since he finished seventh at the 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
Since then he has served his country with distinction on the track, winning the African 5000m title and also a 10,000m silver in 2012, after claiming bronze medals over 5000m at the 2010 African Championships and Commonwealth Games.
His disappointment at coming so close to a memorable debut victory on Sunday was quickly tempered by his quick time and the thought that he had kick-started his Marathon career in decisive fashion.
“I am thankful that, despite not winning, I ran 2:06,” said Kiptoo, who trains near Kapsabet with Micah Kogo, fourth in the recent Chicago Marathon, and Mike Kigen, who was eighth in Dubai in January.
“I felt I could run maybe 2:06, and I am happy that I managed to achieve it,” he said. “It was a surprise in a way, but at the same time I have been training well with Micah and he ran 2:06 in Chicago, so I thought I was in shape to do the same time.”
Whether he gets the Copenhagen call-up or not, Kiptoo hopes his Frankfurt form was impressive enough to attract invitations to some of the world’s biggest city marathons later in the year.
He’d love a chance to return to Frankfurt next October where the unique indoor finish made his battle with Kipruto all the more dramatic.
“If I get a chance I would love to run here again,” he said on Sunday, the screams of the Frankfurt fans almost drowning out his words.
“Today, in the last kilometre, I was feeling my legs beginning to tire, and I just said let me lift my pace and see if I can get there. With the crowd, I almost did it. We were so close together but in the end Vincent was just a bit too strong.
“Although I lost, the finish was wonderful. I haven’t been anywhere else where the finish line is inside a hall. It made for a great race,” reflected Kiptoo, briefly looking back rather than into the future.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF