A blog by runners. For runners.

New faces from Kenya vying for marathon glory in Chicago on Sunday

kimetto kigen kogo
Photo credit Rebecca E. Eden Photography

At the 2013 Chicago Marathon on Sunday there will be some new faces toeing the start line from Kenya. Mary Ann spoke with three up-and-comers including Dennis Kimetto whose PR in the 2012 Berlin Marathon of 2:04:16 is faster than the Chicago course record.

When Dennis Kimetto made his marathon debut in 2012 in Berlin, he came in second, losing the race to his training partner Geoffrey Mutai.

More than just a training partner, it was Mutai who told Kimetto (Bib No. 3) he had talent as a runner and encouraged him to pursue it, the soft-spoken 22-year-old said Thursday afternoon. So far running has paid off for Kimetto, of Eldoret, Kenya.

Kimetto’s time in Berlin, 2:04:16, gave him the distinction of being the debut marathon world record-holder. In addition to his second-place finish in Berlin in 2012, Kimetto took first place earlier this year at the Tokyo Marathon, running the course in a record time of 2:06:50.

Racing in the 36th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Kimetto is just one of the elite runners hoping to sprint away with the $100,000 purse, and possibly an additional $75,000, which is up for grabs to the competitor who can beat the Chicago Marathon’s course record of 2:04:38. A total of 45,000 runners are expected to take part in the race, drawing runners from 129 countries.

Some of the world’s fastest men will be competing Sunday, and race officials believe the course record may be surpassed as Kimetto, along with Kenya’s Moses Mosop, Emmanuel Mutai and Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero hit the course. The men are among the top 11 marathoners in history, according to race officials.

For the last two months Kimetto has been training with one goal in mind: “breaking the course record.”

Depending on weather, course conditions and the pace, breaking the course record is entirely possible, Kimetto said. In addition, he hopes to break his own personal best.

In 2008, Kimetto started running and while at a training camp Mutai advised him “start running.”

He hasn’t looked back.

No surprise then that when he hits the course Sunday, he won’t see much of the scenery. Though he loves the traveling he gets to do as a racer, during the race he will be focusing on the road.

“There’s no time for sightseeing,” he said.

A lot on the line

For 27-year-old Mike Kigen, of Kaptagat, Kenya, there is a lot on the line. Running is his career and he depends on doing well to earn his living, so he takes it seriously and works hard.

Kigen (Bib No. 10) said his training has gone well and he feels his body is ready for the race Sunday. His hope at a minimum is to beat his personal best of 2:08:24, which he placed 8th at the Dubai Marathon in January 2013.

“When I was in high school I was a footballer,” he said. “And, after high school I decided that I have talent in athletics. In 2004, I started my career.”

Marathon training is more difficult than track training he said. Kigen said he normally runs about an hour and a half a day, running as far as he can in that time. And, at least once a week he’ll run 30 to 40 kilometers.

Sunday he expects to head out with the pacers and stay with the pack for most of the race, hopefully breaking out with the finish in sight.

“You have to concentrate on the race, if only because at home so many people are expecting good results,” he said.

A longer road ahead

Micah Kogo, 27, of Kaptagat, Kenya, placed 3rd in the 10,000 meters during the Olympics at Beijing, China in 2008. But, in 2012 he didn’t make the Olympic team.

“I shifted to marathons,” Kogo said. “I didn’t make the Olympics. I didn’t run faster. I came to realize I don’t have the speed, like I did before, so I shifted.”

Whether Kogo, (Bib No. 12) is slower is to be seen, since his personal best in the 10,000 meters, 26:35:63 ranks him sixth on the all-time 10,000 meter list, according to race officials.

Chicago will be his second time racing as a marathoner. His first race in Boston earlier this year had him finishing the race in 2:10:27.

The trip to Chicago was a long one, but with two to three days to recover, Kogo said he is feeling good.

Training was going well, despite issues in Kenya during the rainy season, he said. His training consists of fartleks and long runs.

When he made his debut in Boston, he wasn’t sure about the course and what to expect. Now, in Chicago he said, “With the flat, fast course, I’m hoping to see changes.”

The full list of elites racing on Sunday and their personal records are listed on the race site here.