Toronto, CanadaLike so many other Kenyan runners John Kiprotich was inspired by the feats of his trailblazing countrymen. More specifically, it was the sight of Paul Tergat racing in the 1996 Olympics 10,000m final which ignited his passion to run.
The now 23-year-old from Kitale comes to the 14 October Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, as a relatively late addition to the field having been scheduled to run in Amsterdam. He asked Dutch organisers for permission to switch when a place came open in Toronto and they agreed.
Earlier this year Kiprotich finished third at the Vienna Marathon in 2:07:44, a race he won in 2011. He has run a personal best Marathon of 2:07:08. So it’s no surprise that the course and Canadian All Comers’ record of 2:07:58 - as well as the corresponding $25,000 bonus - is on his mind.
"Based on the good level of my preparation, and my good shape, my goal for the Toronto Marathon is to win the race and break the course record," he declares. "I do respect other contenders, but I'm feeling o.k. and well prepared for this competition.
"The big bonuses for course records and fast times are an extra motivation for all the elite athletes to try our best and achieve a good performance without any tactical plan - once the pacers are done with their job."
Kiprotich has been training in the notorious running town of Iten, with a large group of 15 to 20 runners. They run under the guidance of esteemed Italian coach Renato Canova. Among his training partners is Abel Kirui, the two time World Marathon champion who has been absent the past few months because of his Olympic duties. Kirui claimed the silver medal in London.
"The training program is different each week," Kiprotich says. "But the average mileage is 200 - 210 kilometres a week during the dry season, while during the raining season (July-September) I miss some training sessions due to bad weather conditions.
"Jonathan Maiyo (2:04:56 personal best), Gilbert Kirwa (2:06:14) and John Komen (2:07:13), are in the training group. I follow Mr. Renato Canova’s training program."
When he is not training or traveling for competition he enjoys watching television, especially documentaries and world news. He also listens to reggae music. He has little time for anything else because of his training regimen.
Kiprotich has four brothers and four sisters and their father is a soldier in the Kenyan military while his mother is a farmer. They come from the village of Saboti, about 20 km from the regional capital of Kitale. As a youngster he showed promise with a fine 30km performance at Nairobi’s trials for the 2006 Greatest Race on Earth (1:37:29). He was only 17 at the time and finished an impressive fifth in the high altitude race.
His initial European races yielded some world class times such as a 59:23 clocking at the 2009 Rotterdam Half Marathon. Dozens of Kenyan runners have lined up in Toronto so he had been doing his homework.
"I've been reading the news about the Toronto marathon for ages," he explains, "and I know a few athletes who competed there such as (four time winner) Kenneth Mungara and Nixon Machichim. And, also my agent, Gianni Demadonna, told me it is a good, well organized Marathon. I've seen the circuit on the map and I'm looking forward to checking the course in person, before running there."
Kiprotich faces a world class field in Toronto including several of his countrymen. Listening to them it’s clear a fast time is in the cards - perhaps, a course record. The Race Director Alan Brookes would like nothing more than to pay out the bonuses he has put up for incentive.