Geoffrey Ronoh will return to the city where he staked his claim as one of the rising stars of road racing last year when he lines up for the Birell Prague Grand Prix, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Saturday (5).
The Kenyan is the defending champion and course record-holder for the 10km event with his 27:28 clocking from last year when he beat four-time big city marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai by four seconds.
Even when not at peak form in a year when injury has hindered his development, Ronoh clocked 1:00:28 at the Prague Half Marathon in late March before setting a personal best of 2:10:52 for fifth place at the Prague Marathon.
“This year I had many injuries but my recent training has been going well,” Ronoh said ahead of this weekend’s race. “I’m back to my normal shape. I want to improve my time of 27:28 and Prague will also be a form guide as I look to run a marathon before the end of the year.”
Any idea that his excellence as a professional runner of three years’ standing is produced by a focus on running, rest and precious little else is soon dispelled, once the conversation turns to his parallel life as a wildlife ranger.
“I do sentry duty and that includes night shifts,” he said. “I have been taking this positively, I try to utilise my time, I try to budget with it, so when I’m on night duty, I consider it my day and sleep during the day.”
It was a boyhood of weekends and holidays with friends, hunting in the bush, which first attracted him to a career as a ranger which now goes back 11 years. “We’d go hunting but then I began to think of guarding the animals instead of hunting them, no more killing but looking after them.”
This career also provided an impressive stamina base – he describes tracking in the bush up to 200km in a small group, on the lookout for poachers. It’s little wonder he possessed such a formidable engine when he entered the professional running world.
Last year Ronoh left Wilson Kipsang trailing to win the Olomouc Half Marathon last June before beating Mutai in Prague. But he will need to be at his best to win again this year, given that his rivals include compatriots Daniel Chebii and Amos Mitei.
Chebii’s personal best of 27:35 was set when winning in Prague in 2013. Before that, he had won the Ceske Budejovice Half Marathon in a PB of 59:49.
Mitei has the potential to surprise the more established stars, since the 21-year-old Kenyan ran 27:42 to win the Nairobi 10km at altitude last year. Kenya’s Josphat Kiptis, winner of the Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon title in late June, is also in the field, along with 2013 world cross-country champion Japhet Korir.
A strong women’s field includes 2011 Boston Marathon winner Caroline Kilel of Kenya and her compatriots Viola Jelagat and Linah Cheruto. Kilel has a best of 31:36 and her consistency makes her a threat at any distance.
Jelagat has already competed in the Prague, Ceske Budejovice and Olomouc half marathons this year, but her PB of 69:27 came in Piacenza in May, which suggests she should be capable of running faster than 32 minutes over 10km.
Ethiopia should also have a say in the outcome with Amane Beriso in prime form this year, clocking 32:06 on her way to winning the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon in March.
Two women return to racing after maternity breaks and both have proven pedigree: Shitaye Eshete of Bahrain, sixth in the 10,000m at the 2013 World Championships, and Poland’s Karolina Jarzynska, a 32:09 performer.
Organisers for the IAAF