29 yearold Kenyan Bernard Barmasai has faced up to persistent injury problems caused by a career running the 3000m Steeplechase and has decided to move up to the Marathon.
Barmasai who set a World 3000m Steeplechase record of 7:55.72 in Cologne in 1997, and was the World Championships bronze medallist in 1997 (Athens) and 2001 (Edmonton), has endured serious injury in the last two years. The tendons surrounding his right knee have caused him great pain ever since his last run in 2001, when he finished fourth in Zurich (8:05.00, 17 August).
The 2002 season was ruined as the heavy pounding inflicted on the knees by the hurdling action, continued to cause him problems even after treatment to the injury. As such, Barmasai was restricted to just three competitive outings over the barriers - two races at the Kenya championships and another run in Lausanne, where he was sixth (8:16.69, season’s best).
By March of 2003 when further treatment had failed to help matters, Barmasai made the decision to undergo surgery to remove some bone which was at the root of the problem. Since then the man who was ranked as the best steeplechaser in the world in both 1998 and 1999, has set his mind to just running on the flat in the future.
Training with a group of illustrious Kenyan marathon runners including 2003 Amsterdam winner William Kipsang (2:06:39 PB), Rotterdam title holder William Kiplagat (2:07:42; PB 2:06:50, 1999) and Felix Limo (2:06:42, 2nd Amsterdam 2003), Barmasai has been able to put in a lot of strengthening work during this year, with long runs but no speed work.
The physical results have been so encouraging that Barmasai even risked some track racing this autumn running a 13:23.23 5000m on 2 September, and a 7:46.21 3000m five days later in Rieti.
Plans now have changed, as rather than a new future on the track, a road racing career has logically entered Barmasai’s thoughts.
“I liked the long training runs which I was doing with the marathon runners so much,” commented Barmasai, “that I thought if these guys can run so fast and I am doing almost the same training schedule as they are, why can’t I also run just as fast at the Marathon?”
Having never run a Half Marathon before, let alone a full 26.2 miles event, Barmasai is now planning to run a half early in 2004, followed up by a Marathon debut in one of the major city marathons next the April.
The only question now is which race? But it is a nice problem which Barmasai doesn’t mind solving because for the first time in two years he is injury free and ready for his new career on the roads.