Dennis Kimetto is “more than ready” to race for Kenya at next year’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the marathon world record-holder said today ahead of the 2014 World Athletics Gala in Monaco where he is one of three athletes shortlisted for the men’s Athlete of the Year award.
Kimetto made history in September when he became the first man to finish a marathon faster than two hours and three minutes, clocking 2:02:57 in Berlin in only the fifth marathon of his career.
It was an incredible achievement for the 30-year-old who started training as recently as 2008, believing it could be a way of escaping his poverty-stricken life as a farmer.
He is far from poverty-stricken now, having earned more than US$100,000 for his world record and race victory, the third of his short marathon career.
Virtually unknown at the time, he burst on to the scene in 2012 when he was second to Geoffrey Mutai at the 2012 Berlin Marathon and went on in 2013 to win two other World Marathon Majors races – all IAAF Gold Label events – in Tokyo and Chicago, the latter in 2:03:45, just 22 seconds outside Kipsang’s then world record.
It was then that Kimetto started to believe the record would be his if he returned to Berlin this year.
“Berlin is a special city,” he said. “After I went to Chicago and didn’t make it there, I knew I could go to Berlin and get it.
“It is the perfect course for a record because it is flat and you always get good pacemakers, this is the recipe you need to break a record.”
Kimetto’s record immediately sparked a rash of speculation about one of the sport’s last remaining iconic barriers: the sub-two hour marathon.
For Kimetto, it’s less a question of if the barrier will be broken, than when.
“Yeah,” he said, bluntly when asked if it was possible. “I believe if they train very hard someone will be able to do it. It’s all about the training. With good preparation you can do any time you want. If you’ve done the training and are prepared mentally, it can be done.
“I saw the record in Berlin as a blessing because no one expected me to win. At 25-30km I looked at the clock and knew I could break it. Then I pushed myself and that’s how I did it.”
Kimetto has been pushing himself for some time now, ever since he decided to escape his life as a farmhand and start running just six years ago.
“I would listen to the radio at home, and hear commentary on athletics,” he explained. “That’s what inspired me. It was the poverty that made me run; I thought athletics was the way to escape the poverty.”
Kimetto started training alone on the trails around Iten, home of so many great Kenyan distance runners, and was soon spotted by Kipsang and Geoffrey Mutai, the latter being a Boston, New York and Berlin marathon winner who asked him to join their group.
“It was really painful at first because I couldn’t stay with them,” Kimetto remembered. “But in time I became as good as them. Now, training is the fun part, and the hard part is racing when you reap the benefits.”
And what does that training consist of?
“We follow a rigid code,” said Kimetto. “We know what we’re doing every day from Monday to Sunday, every week. The programme changes every week.
“But we always stick to it, all of us. If it says we are doing 30km we do 30km. If 40km, then we do 40km. So all the group does the same, and we only scale it down two weeks before a race.
“I started training very late,” added Kimetto, whose marathon career began just two years ago. “But because I’ve been training like this with the big boys, I have made it.”
Indeed, he is the ‘big boy’ himself now.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF