In 2003, we reported that Bernard Barmasai, the former World record holder for the 3000m Steeplechase champion, had at the age of 29 years of age decided to change to the roads and run the Marathon. Now 32-years-old and with two sub 2:09 clockings to his credit this year at major city marathons in Europe, we can safely say that the transition has been successful.
Barmasai’s road to further glory – Click here for the original 2003 story – came about after his track career was near to ruin thanks to the pounding inflicted on his knees caused by the hurdling action in his specialist track event.
The recognition that his body could no longer take the strain meant after two years of agony he underwent surgery on his right knee in 2003, and began training with a group of sub 2:07 marathon runners who included William Kipsang, William Kiplagat, and Felix Limo.
A Half Marathon debut of 62:05 in Paris in March 2004 was followed by a promising Marathon career start when he ran 2:14:49 for a 15th place finish in Rotterdam on 4 April of that year. These times were consolidated in 2005 when in the Amsterdam Marathon Barmasai sped to a 2:10:52 clocking for fourth place.
But the true breakthrough came this spring when the two-time World Championships 3000m Steeplechase silver medallist came third in Paris in 2:08:50.
Edgar de Veer of Global Sports Communication, Barmasai’s management agents, confirmed that as such the Kenyan approached his return to Holland for last month’s 2006 ING Amsterdam Marathon with a confidence that he could run much faster.
However, his relative inexperience mixed with a strong cold east wind put pay to these hopes. In front from 35km to 42km in the race, Barmasai was uncertain of his physical limitations in such weather conditions and ultimately was more concerned about trying to secure his first Marathon victory than running a fast time. Yet in the end he lost out by just two seconds to compatriot Solomon Busendich who out-sprinted him when the two entered the 1928 Olympic stadium in tandem for the final run-in to the finish. Barmasai crossed in 2:08:54, just four seconds outside his personal best.
That performance has been enough to convince Barmasai that a 2:06 run remains within his capabilities, and with new found career motivation it is still too early to write him off as a potential candidate for major championship honours at the Marathon.
Chris Turner for the IAAF