A podium finish would suit Kenya’s Dominic Ruto Kipngetich just fine when he lines up for the 2017 Blom Bank Beirut Marathon on 12 November. But victory in this IAAF Silver Label Road Race would be even sweeter.
Although the 27-year-old Ruto is amongst the fastest in the elite field he is proceeding with caution knowing that in the marathon anything is possible.
Earlier this year, he recorded a new personal best time of 2:09:08 at the Rome International Marathon knocking 20 seconds off his previous best, also recorded in the Italian capital a year earlier. Clearly, he will be in a position to offer defending champion Edwin Kiptoo a serious challenge on the streets of the Lebanese capital.
“My training for the Beirut marathon has been quite good so far,” Ruto says. “At the beginning of the season I was scheduled to run a marathon in China, in September. But I got a tendon injury and I had to reschedule my plans. Recent workouts have gone well giving me a feeling that I can try to be competitive. I ran an average of 180 kilometres per week.
“I am not much aware how competitive Beirut marathon will be this year. I only hope to have my body responding well on that day and, of course, I will try my best. I am not really after any final time but I hope to competitive enough to finish on the podium.”
Since turning professional Ruto has trained in a group alongside such marathon stalwarts as Amos Kipruto who has a 2:05:43 personal best; Dickson Chumba a former winner of both the Tokyo and Chicago Marathons and who boasts a personal best of 2:04:32; and Evans Chebet, who’s clocked 2:05:31, among others. Their sessions are planned and overseen by famed Italian coach Claudio Berardelli. All are managed by agent Gianni DeMadonna.
Like many Kenyan runners Ruto was introduced to running as a school boy. Seeing the elite Kenyan runners training on the rural roads near his home left an impression on him as did seeing the championship races on television.
“I went to Moisirgoit high school in a place called Mosoriot which is 20 kms from Eldoret,” Ruto explains. “During that time we were many running during school competitions but I think I am the only one of that generation who manage to became a professional runner.
“I started training seriously together with Philip Sanga. He is a 2:06 runner now. He is the one who introduced me to the idea of running as a profession.
“When I was young I used to go to the main centre to watch races because we didn’t have television at home. I remember being excited watching Martin Lel (a past New York and London marathon winner) and (2008 Olympic champion) Samuel Wanjiru. I use to admire how they could be always very competitive in any race they showed up at.”
As a professional Ruto uses his race earnings to prepare for a future after his running career comes to an end. At the moment he owns about 26 acres of farmland upon which he grows vegetables, especially maize. In addition he has some animals. Earnings from Beirut would be turned into his home and could come at a particularly useful time. He is getting married in December.
“I don’t know much about the Beirut marathon,” he says. “I think it is not really a fast course but I heard it is getting bigger and bigger. I believe winning Beirut marathon might give me a good exposure for my future races.”
This year’s course changes have made the chance for faster times possible. Indeed, the event record of 2:11:04 set in 2015 by fellow Kenyan Jackson Limo would earn a further $3,000 in addition to the winner’s purse of $10,000. Should the victor come in under 2:10 that first place prize climbs to $15,000.
As the Blom Bank Beirut Marathon grows in popularity it attracts an even stronger elite field. Ruto could well be the name on everyone’s lips come November 12th.
Paul Gains for the IAAF