Naibei: Why I'm back to defend my Iten race title

Samuel Naibei celebrates after winning the Iten International Marathon first edition held in Iten last year. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

At the inaugural edition of Iten International Marathon last year, Samuel Naibei and his neighbour Caroline Jepchirchir powered to victory in the men’s and women’s 42km races respectively.

Next Sunday Naibei will be returning to the high altitude course to defend the title.

Naibei is looking to impress his home fans in Iten, and more so his supportive family.

Jepchirchir is on maternity leave and will be following the action live from her house, just a stone throw away from Naibei’s at Iten’s Kiptingo area.

Coincidentally, Naibei’s wife gave birth recently.

The defending champion says he was elated that they got babies after the historic triumph during the first edition on December 18, 2022.

Alongside an expected 500 elite athletes, Naibei will be eyeing the Sh1 million top prize.

Top 20 athletes in both men and women categories in 42km and 10km will be awarded, according to the organisers.

“My wife has encouraged me to return to Iten International Marathon to defend my title. She was happy because it was my breakthrough. When I received my prize money; that became the end of me paying rent. I built a house and that became one of my biggest achievements this year,” Naibei, who comes from Trans Nzoia County said.

He says he is well prepared to defend his title, and that he was aware of the tough course and competition.

“I am ready to defend my title and it is my prayer that I win the prize money again this year,” Naibei said.

Apart from the encouragement by his wife, and the urge to dedicate a race to their newborn baby, Naibei says the 2023 Iten International Marathon will give him an opportunity to run another sub 2:09 in a 2400m elevation course.

“I have trained for 14 years including during my high school days in Trans Nzoia, and the Iten International marathon, which is staged in my training base, became my breakthrough.

“I was shocked after running 2:08 in Iten last year. I had clocked 2:09 in Rome and I had imagined that I would run such a fast time in Iten. My wife doesn’t understand how tough it is to prepare for a marathon but I have to train hard because I need to support the family and to advance my athletics career,” Naibei said.

He said he was doing his speed work at the Kamariny Stadium after the track at the stalled sports facility was improved by Elgeyo Marakwet County earlier this year.

“As athletes, we are happy for the improvement of the track at stalled Kamariny. We can now train there. Although incomplete, Kamariny is now live with athletes who have been travelling all the way to Eldoret and Tambach for training,” he said.

Naibei finished high school in 2012. He said he didn’t qualify to join university like some of his peers but chose to relocate to Iten where his athletics career began.

He encouraged athletes to take part in local races, saying it would prepare them for global contests.

“Athletes in Iten need no air ticket. You will only need to train well in preparation for the marathon,” he said.

Naibei was the winner of the 2019 Zagreb Spring Half Marathon.

Last year, he finished seventh at both the Run Rome Marathon (2:09:41) and Copenhagen Marathon (2:10:50).

ITEN INTERNATIONAL MARATHON IN NUMBERS

Date: Sunday November 12, 2023

Prize money: Sh1 million

Number of athletes to be awarded: 80

Competitive races: 42km, and 10km

Fun race: 5km

Expected number participants: 1,200

Start line: Chororget – Keiyo South

Finish line: Iten town – Keiyo North

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