Friday, April 4, 2014

Kenyans, Ethiopians to renew rivalry at Paris Marathon on Sunday

NAIROBI, April 3 (Xinhua) -- They might not have been the best of friends on track or in cross country meetings in their decade long relationship as elite athletes.

Yet it is that resentment that organisers of Paris Marathon will be banking on to spice up the clash of multiple Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele and Frankfurt Marathon silver medallist Mark Kiptoo (2:06.16).

"I know Bekele very well. We have clashed on numerous occasions at the Golden League and the cross country circuit. He is a great athlete, but it does not mean that the success he had on track will be transferred straight into marathon.

"These are two different competitions. He has a chance to excel in both, but I will provide the challenge and so will be the other athletes that have entered in this race. I too am a novice over the 42km distance, it will be my second marathon, but I am not as worried as I was when running in my debut in Frankfurt," Kiptoo told Xinhua on Thursday in Eldoret.

While everyone will be waiting to see if Bekele' s transition to marathon will be successful, Kiptoo, 37, will be hoping to keep his distance and strike when necessary.

"It is true I started running very late, just ten years ago. In this industry, it is not about the age, but how you manage your body. To avoid burning out, the discipline and focus you have on the sport and social life. I feel young and that is why I have entered into marathon. I hope to come out successful," said Kiptoo.

The World Military Games 5,000m champions said he expected to run a fast race in Frankfurt last year and was not surprised with the fast time and was not biter to have lost out to compatriot Vincent Kipruto (2:06:15) coming up in second just one second behind in 2:06:16.

"When one runs 26 minutes in 10,000m and 12 minutes in 5,000m, ordinarily, that person can run faster in the marathon. It depends on how he does his training, how he loads his muscles, the endurance and mileage he has. Bekele has done that and just like me, he is very much capable of running under the two hours and six minute mark in Paris," said Kiptoo.

"On Sunday, it will be down to the level of competition and the weather. Bekele will finally realise that running the track and the marathon are not related. But he has the capability, the hunger and dream of succeeding. The three are what anchored me to the success I had in Frankfurt.

"Hopefully, the same will be seen in Paris," said Kiptoo, who jets out of Nairobi Thursday for Paris.

Kiptoo said that with other Kenyans in the race, he is certain it will boil down to a Kenya and Ethiopia challenge and the best prepared mentally will excel.

"I want to win not because of the rivalry I had with Bekele. But it is because I target the Commonwealth Games and my coach has said good run in Paris might seal me a slot in the Kenya team," said Kiptoo.

"From there, I have to take each race one at a time. Rio 2016 is not a long shot, because with focus and determination all is possible. One thing is certain; I plan to improve my personal best time in Paris."

Both Bekele and Kiptoo will arrive in Paris on Friday. And so will be other elite runners. "Everything is okay, training went well, but it' s a marathon and first marathon," says Bekele' s agent Jos Hermens.

Alongside Kiptoo, Bekele' s main rivals should be other strong Ethiopians. Tamirat Tola 2:06:17 and Molalign Azmeraw 2:07:12 fourth and fifth from Dubai this year are competing.

Xiamen 2013 winner Getachew Terfa 2:07:32 and second in Hamburg 2013 Limenih Getachew 2:07:35. Others are Lukas Kanda (2:08:04) Gideon Kipketer (2:08:24) and Mike Kigen. Kenyan turned French Simon Munyutu is also in the mix.

In women race also Ethiopia having top names Aheza Kiros (2:24:30), Meskerem Assefa (2:25:17) and former steeple runner Ahmed Zemzem (2:27:16).

On Kenyan side Flomena Cheyech winner of Vienna and Toronto last year with 2:24:34 best.

Former Kenyan and now French Martha Komu has 2:25:33 best and Sarah Chepchirchir with 1:08:07 half best is making her debut in the full distance.