Stephen Kiprotich crosses the line at the Tokyo Marathon (© AFP / Getty Images)
Over its decades-long history, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has been graced by some of the world’s greatest marathoners, but never an Olympic champion. That will all change on 21 October when Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich will race in this IAAF Gold Label event.
The 2012 Olympic marathon champion will accompany two-time Toronto champion Philemon Rono from their mutual training base in Iten, Kenya in what should be an intense battle between the two accomplished marathon runners.
The pair are both friends and training partners, but each will want to take home the CAD$30,000 first-place prize money.
“I am really happy and training hard and looking forward to competing in this big race in Toronto,” says Kiprotich, who also won the marathon title at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, joining Ethiopia’s Gezehegne Abera as the only men to ever win both major competitions.
“I was speaking with Rono and I asked him what is the course like,” he says of the man who set a Canadian all-comers’ record of 2:06:52 in Toronto a year ago. “He said the course is good and nice. I was telling him if we go fast and run the first half in 63 minutes, we can push at the end to 2:05. He told me it is possible.”
Kiprotich’s major championship success is outstanding and all the more remarkable since he chose to make Iten his training base. There he lives in the camp built by Dutch based management company Global Sport Communications with a group which includes not only Rono but the world’s No.1 marathon runner, Eliud Kipchoge. They are coached by 1992 Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Patrick Sang.
Although the facilities in Uganda have improved substantially since his Olympic victory, he still prefers the familiarity of the Iten camp.
“I train here because my friends are here and I have good company,” he says. “My home is about six hours drive by car. I go home on the weekends and sometimes when my family needs me. But sometimes when I am preparing for a big race, I stay in the camp for one month without going home.”
Despite his tremendous success and uncanny ability to peak at the right time, Kiprotich knows his personal best of 2:06:33 deserves to be substantially reduced.
“I have the two medals but also I want to run a faster time than 2:05,” he says. “Most of the people they look at my times and they ask me how did you win these two medals in poor times? So it is my hope to run a good time before I retire.”
Kiprotich and Rono can expect some stiff competition from New Zealand’s Jake Robertson who debuted with a national record of 2:08:26 earlier this year. All three are looking for a time faster than the course record. If race organisers can summon up cooperative weather, we may well see magic achieved at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Paul Gains (organisers) for the IAAF