By JONATHAN KOMEN
Eldoret stands out as the undisputed ‘City of Champions’— and by extension — the world’s athletic superpower.
Every world beater in athletics who readily comes to mind, from the legendary Kipchoge Keino to the pint-sized Vivian Cheruiyot, calls this part of the country home.
This is where speed meets endurance, where budding athletes nurture their skills and where races are planned and executed with precision.
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And in a fortnight, the town will once again reverberate in a spectacular fashion when thousands of athletes’ battle each other at the sixth Kass Marathon.
The high-stakes Kass Marathon, which is the only media-sponsored race in the world, has certainly carved out a niche by producing trailblazers in world marathons.
Geoffrey Mutai, who posted the world’s fastest unofficial time of 2:03.02 in Boston last year, won the inaugural Kass Marathon in 2007.
It was double victory for Mutai as he was spotted by his Dutch manager Gerard Van de Veen of Volare Sports during the race.
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The 30-year-old Mutai says: “Although the Kass Marathon proved tough to many runners, I found it easy since I had trained at the hilly areas of Kapng’etuny. The race paid up after I met my manager Gerard Van de Veen, who began to organise races for me.”
It turned out to Van de Veen that Kass Marathon is simply a fertile ground to scout for talents.
The Dutchman, who also manages world’s second all-time best marathoner Wilson Kipsang, is keen to sign up more athletes at this year’s Kass Marathon.
He told FeverPitch recently: “I will attend Kass Marathon. It has a high level competition and promising talents.”
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Race director Moses Tanui, a two-time Boston Marathon winner, said preparations for the high altitude race have been finalised and they expected a high turnout this year after the course was certified by Iaaf. Tanui said the certification will see winners struggle for course record bonus and called on Iaaf to come up with a world best classification for high altitude courses.
“We want Iaaf to set the best mark for this few courses. There is one in Mexico City like this,” said Tanui, the first man in the world to run half marathon under one hour.
With the Iaaf certification, Tanui said Eldoret the town stands out as the world’s athletics superpower and the certification of the race as an Association of International Marathon Series (Aims) will enable the organisers to document the course records.
“I‘m happy the course has been certified by the Iaaf and, hopefully, we will start keeping our course records from this year,” said Tanui.
He added: “Since the route has been certified we will introduce a prize for whoever breaks the course record from next year.”
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