Ahead of the 2013 World Athletics Gala in Monaco, Kenya’s World Marathon record-holder Wilson Kipsang, who ran 2:03:23 in Berlin on September 29, spoke about his hopes for the future – and revealed on Friday (15) that he would swap his record for an Olympic or a IAAF World Championships gold medal.
Asked about the choice of titles or times, the 31-year-old London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist responded: “For me, I prefer gold. When I went to the Olympics last year I wanted to go for the gold, and maybe go for the World record this year. It is still my target to go for gold at the World Championships or the Olympics.”
Kipsang, who broke his compatriot Patrick Makau’s world mark by 15 seconds in Berlin, added that World and Olympic titles could be won in times of 2:10 or 2:11, and in that sense his World record was “more valuable".
He accepted that it had been a motivating factor for him to have missed Makau’s record by just four seconds when he ran the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon, where he clocked 2:03.42, the second fastest official time ever at the time.
“That was not really a disappointment for me, though,” he said. “I can say it was a plus for me, because then I could think ‘I am just away by four seconds’, and it inspired my training.”
Kipsang said that he realised the World record was within his grasp at the 40km mark in Berlin earlier this year.
“When I crossed the 40km mark I tried to see the split time, and I saw it was 1:57.13. When I had got to that point in Frankfurt it was 1:57.20, so then I knew I could get inside it. I felt good, and then I started to push hard.”
He added that he had visited the Berlin course a month before the race in company with the previous year’s winner, his training partner Geoffrey Mutai. The latter has the fastest Marathon time ever of 2:03:02 to his credit, but on a slightly downhill Boston course that is not recognised for record purposes.
“I checked the course, and Geoffrey talked to me about it, and then I went back to Kenya to prepare,” he said.
Tergat provides the tips
Kipsang, who said his mentor was Kenya’s former 10,000m and Marathon World record-holder Paul Tergat, said that it “would not be easy” for anyone to break two hours for the Marathon.
“The World record can easily be broken. There are a lot of new guys now training harder who want to go for the record. For me, I think I can do a sub-2:03. It’s possible.”
However, he added that running Marathons at such a pace was “very difficult” and that the mental effort was most telling.
“The main problem in the Marathon is to control your mind for two hours,” he said. “You have to be aware of how you are feeling, what time you are doing your splits, what are your targets, when do you break away from the group.
“Mind control is really difficult, but you find that if you concentrate too much at the beginning of the race you lose a lot of energy. You should be doing that at the end.
“At the start you keep running with the group, you just relax, relax. But you have to keep a look out. Sometimes you can see someone go off like crazy and he’s gone. You have got to keep a close eye on the other runners. At the water stations you have to be careful who is doing what. You try to see how the others are running.”
Asked to explain the rising levels of achievement in the Marathon over the last 10 years, Kipsang commented: “I think the level of competition is really high now. There are more guys running fast and training in a more professional way. They are working at a higher level than the guys who used to run before.
“But the big difficulty is timing. Many runners are working with the same schedules, the same routines. But you have to know what training you should do three months, two months, a month, a week before the race.
“Sometimes runners are in top shape two months before a race and then they don’t perform; or sometimes runners start too late, and on race day they are not at the right level. Everybody does the same programme, but the most important thing is knowing how your body reacts and getting the timing right.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF