A friend in the US asks: “Over here, at the various marathons and half-marathons with prize money, traveling groups of astonishing Kenyan runners come along and scoop everything up – do they also come to Britain?
Well, Abel Kiprop’s in London, as is David Rudisha…
The point, which my friend alludes to, is that Kenyan runners are far from flavour of the month with US, or for that matter UK, promoters. The country’s athletics culture emphasises group, not individual, success. While the race organisers would like nothing better to market than a deadly rivalry between two athletes so far ahead of all competition that they would be guaranteed a 1-2 finish (think Ali-Foreman crossed with Coe-Ovett), they find themselves promoting a series of modest and unassuming runners, disinclined to criticise their rivals, especially not their fellow Kenyans.
In this context, it’s worth taking a closer look at Kiprop’s recent prediction that a Kenyan athlete (generally understood by the press to mean himself) would break the Olympic record in this year’s men’s 1500 metres.
The Olympic record is 3min 29.77sec. Kiprop, the World and Olympic champion, ran his personal best of 3:28.88 as recently as this July in Monaco, suggesting that if he can simply maintain his time the record is within his sight. But while Rudisha won the Kenyan 800m Olympic trial in June with ease, Kiprop finished only third in the 1500m:
1. Silas Kiplagat 3:37.60
2. Nixon Chepseba 3:38.00
3. Asbel Kiprop 3:38.30
Kiplagat’s PB is 3:29.27 while Chepseba has recently run (just) under 3:30.
Given their best times are so close it’s worth taking seriously Kiprop’s words, “It’s hard to pick who between the three of us will win the gold medal. But I am sure that the Olympic record … will be broken.”