How did you become a renowned world-class athlete?
I started running 5,000m and 1,0000m while in Form Two at Kyeni Academy, in Kangundo. I didn’t run in primary school because the school didn’t participate in athletics. After winning competitions up to the national level and making my school famous, the administration gave me a scholarship to study for free. This helped me because l could not raise fees. At this time, the 2005 Rotterdam champion Jimmy Muindi, who comes from my area, heard of a boy who was doing well in athletics and came to see me. He encouraged and advised me to remain focused. After Form Four, Muindi took me to his youth training camp in Ngong' and trained me for two years, before linking me to international competitions. My first competition was in the 25K half marathon in Berlin, which l won. I have since participated in several other half marathons such as Zanzibar, Rotterdam, City-Pier-City Loop and the Reading Half Marathons. I’ve also participated in the Ras Al Khaimah, Bristol, Tarsus , Frankfurt Marathon, Rotterdam Marathon and Granollers Half Marathons, among others.
Did you ever think you would be a famous athlete?
I wanted to be a doctor, and part-time farmer. I am happy after realising my talent was in athletics.
After breaking Berlin World Marathon record, we haven’t heard much about you. What have you been up to?
I injured my left knee while running in the 2012 London marathon. It has kept me out of international competition for a while. Thank God my knee has healed and l am back in training, ready to recapture the world marathon record which is being held by Wilson Kipsang.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by humble people who conquer mountains and achieve things that some believe they cannot.
What is the highlight of your career?
When I broke Haile Gebrselassie’s marathon record in Berlin, Germany in 2011 and when I was feted as the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) World Athlete of the Year, 2010.
What has been your low moment?
When Wilson Kipsang broke my Berlin World Marathon record clocking of 2:03:38, with his new record of 2:03:23. But he’s given me the challenge to worker harder and take it on again. Another low moment was after I dropped out of 2012 London Marathon mid-race due to injury. That has kept me out of major events for more than a year.
Tell us about the drama when you were left out during Olympic selection team.
At that time, l was the number one marathoner in the world. Athletics Kenya officials had promised to consider me as first priority in the selection, but they did not and to-date, no one has ever explained what happened. I was hurt but I moved on since there are so many other events l will take part in.
Do you think champions should get direct nomination to participate in athletic events?
Yes, polished athletes with past impressive performance need direct ticket to represent the country in various events. Experience will favour them.
How would you rate the management of Athletics Kenya (AK) body in the country today?
They are currently doing well, running their business in the open and giving upcoming athletes the opportunity to prove their worth. Initially, there was an issue of favouritism, but it is no longer there.
Why have some Kenyan athletes changed citizenship and decided to run for other countries?
In Kenya, the competition is very high because athletes are many, and some who qualify for international events are left out. Everyone in the world is after greener pastures, and so are athletes.
How do you deal with fame and the money that comes with it?
Athletics is a career and l let my passion lead me, not the fame and money it brings. Whenever l get a lot of money, l invest it and forget it. I respect my fans. We mingle and I don’t see myself a celebrity. As for women, as a family man and devoted Christian, God has helped me to remain disciplined.
The Government had resolved that athletes pay tax. What’s your take?
That was unfair because we are the ambassadors of this country and we really sell it well. The host country taxes us 30 per cent and we pay our managers 15 per cent. If again our country has to tax us, we will end up with nothing.
Tell us about your family and education background?
I was born 1985 in Manyanzaani Village in Matungulu, Machakos County. I am the second born in a family of six - five boys and a girl. We were brought up in humble background, missing most of basic requirements. I attended Unyuani Primary School and later Kyeni Academy. I am married - my wife is in the armed forces. I have three children. My daughter is the first born and I have twin boys.
What don’t people know about you?
Many people don’t know l am a constable in the police force. I plan to study criminology. I am a farmer of coffee, bananas, maize and beans.
Who is your role model?
Jimmy Muindi and Paul Tergat who constantly advise me, and Haile Gabrselassie, who l regularly visit to learn from. He’s a humble man and interacts well with locals.
What challenges have you faced so far?
It is hard waking up every morning to exercise. It is very expensive to train and attain international status. The injury has interfered with my continuous participation in various events. I have run in unfavourable weather conditions that have affected my performance.
How do you unwind?
I like going out and spending quality time with my family. I also attend, participate or help in local athletics.
Have you achieved the goals you set out to achieve in athletics?
I wanted to break records and live a good life. Yes, my family and l now live a good life and I also support my neighbours. I am among the top athletes in the world - currently number two in marathon in the world, after fellow Kenyan Wilson Kipsang. I received the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) World Athlete of the Year Award in 2010.
What are your future plans?
I want to be an athletics head coach. I want to pass my knowledge and skills to others. My hope is to start a training camp for youths to help nurture young and upcoming athletes. Of course, I also want to continue breaking world records.
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