2010 World Half Marathon champion Wilson Kiprop (© Getty Images)
It was only the fourth time that one nation’s runners ran to gold since the inception of these championships in 1992. The other three were Kenyan pairs as well; in 1999 it was luminaries Tegla Loroupe, who won her third of three straight titles, and Paul Tergat, who collected his second of two victories. For Kiprop and Kiplagat, quite a nice duo to follow.
“This is the first (men’s) win for Kenya in a very long time. And I’m very, very happy for that,” said Kiprop, whose pre-race credentials, including a 59:39 over the distance one month ago which placed him among the biggest threats to defeat Tadese, the World record holder.
That triumph didn’t come until the final 200 metres of a bitterly fought battle which saw Kiprop’s confidence rise with every powerful stride.
“I was not yet confident because I knew it would be a fight in the last two hundred metres, so I was just holding on,” Kiprop said. “In the last 100 metres I saw that I was strong and I was able to run away.”
But the lanky runner who confidently strode across the finish line was anything but confident in the run-up to the race.
“Before the race I was weak,” Kiprop readily admitted. “After midnight I was still awake, thinking about all the top guys who were in the race. I was so fearful. I didn’t sleep well because I was thinking of the other guys and thinking about how to win this.”
“In fact,” he continued,” I woke up very early - I was just walking from my bed to the toilet. I was trembling.”
In addition to the day’s conditions, 22 C. with 65 percent humidity, both Kiprop and Kiplagat dealt with something the local balmy climate had nothing to do with. Rather, just the simple fact of bouncing back from their arduous journey to Nanning, a whirlwind adventure that lasted just over 40 hourr before reaching their hotel here at 1 am Friday morning.
“We flew Nairobi to Dubai, where we waited five hours,” Kiplagat said. “Then we flew to Beijing, waiting three hours. And then finally Nanning.” She didn’t include travel time from her home base in Iten, but she can be forgiven for that. Her list of airports and routing proved her point.
Kiprop agreed. “It was very long travel. When I finally reached Nanning I was so, so tired, I felt a lot of stiffness in my body. At the hotel I took a long bath to at least cool my body a little. But it was difficult.”
Those sorts of problems are par for the course for a man who had to borrow money for bus fare just so he could get himself to races in Kenya. That perseverance paid off for Kiprop, whose rise in the ranks this year included the national and African 10,000m titles on home turf in the high altitude of Nairobi. He’s already run a marathon, finishing fifth in 2:09:09 in Prague in May, but he’s not yet ready to turn his full attentions to the longer distance.
“I’m not ready for another marathon this year. But I am looking to run well and the World Cross Country Championships.”
The same goes for Kiplagat, who today added the World Half Marathon title to her World Cross Country victory in 2009.
Although she’s the national record holder in the 10,000m on the track at 30:11.59 from 2009, she said she still has plenty to achieve on the track before looking further.
“I didn’t have a good season on the track this year,” Kiplagat said. “So I have to achieve more there before thinking about the marathon. I have already won a medal at Cross Country and I have to look for a medal before I leave the track. That is my goal for next year (World Championships in Daegu) and at the next Olympics.”
Indeed, like Kiprop, still only 23, there’s still plenty of time to consider the longer run. For now, the pair are enjoying their rare achievement over half the distance.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF