Society & Success

Kiplagat and team keep Kenya’s marathon hopes high in Beijing

Edna Kiplagat celebrates after winning the
Edna Kiplagat celebrates after winning the women's marathon at the 2013 IAAF World Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on August 10, 2013. PHOTO | OLIVIER MORIN | AFP 

Edna Kiplagat spent a large portion of her 11-hour flight from Nairobi to Beijing keenly knitting together every tiny detail for her hat trick at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in China.

Kiplagat, winner of marathon titles at the 2011 Daegu and 2013 Moscow World Championships, is the captain of a Kenya’s women marathon quartet that left for Beijing on Monday.

“There’s always the excitement and chills that ran down your body when the countdown nears the big day. Every second your mind has to stay gambling around the ideas you need to win,” Kiplagat says.

“It is never easy to defend a title because most people you are lining up against have ever competed against you before,” said Kiplagat in Iten as the team packed for Beijing.

This Sunday the 36-year-old experienced runner will be vested with the responsibility of leading Visiline Chepkesio, Hela Kiprop and Jemimah Sumgong to claim the top four slots and erase the disappointment after the men’s marathon team failed to finish the race on August 22.

Kiplagat, basking in a best of 2.19.50 from the 2012 London Marathon, fronts the Kenyan onslaught on the same course where her country brothers Dennis Kimetto, Wilson Kipsang and Mark Korir faltered.

Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich won the men’s marathon title in the 2013 Moscow World Championships, where the first Kenyan finished ninth. Kenya last won the title in 2011 through Abel Kirui.

Kiplagat has dominated the major marathon podiums since making her high profile road debut at the New York Marathon in 2010, where she bagged gold. She is the most preferred candidate for gold.

“The hopes of Kenyans wishing that we do a clean sweep will keep us going,” Kiplagat said.

Sumgong won a silver medal in the 2014 New York City Marathon and will be in the national colours for the first time.

Before the firing of the gun kickstarts the 26.7 mile battle at 2.30am on Sunday, Sumgong will take a few seconds to recite Proverbs 4:25: “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.”

She has been reading this quote every morning since joining camp two months ago. She penned a marathon best of 2.20.41 despite finishing fourth in Boston Marathon in 2014.

Visiline Chepkesio has for long wanted to run.

“When I grow up I want to be a professional athlete just like Tegla Loroupe,” she told the Kerotet Girls’ Form Four Class of 2008 at a party.

Chepkesio’s uncommon decree caused a lengthy giggle from the more than 50 girls who wanted to take up fancy careers like banking and being air hostesses and models.

The Kapsabet-based diminutive athlete is relishing a fast-rising star in her running career. She won silver in the Paris Marathon in April in a lifetime best of 2.24.44.

Hela Kiprop won a silver medal in the Tokyo Marathon, which forms the high profile World Marathon Majors. Kiprop, in her first team assignment, clocked 2.23.03 in the Japan race in February.