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Mumbai marathon: Gideon Kipketer wins it and how!

Mumbai Marathon winner Gideon Kipketer's manager Jurrie van der Velden, tells mid-day how the pace-setter decided to go for broke mid-way through the race as the Kenyan sets new course record

Less than 24 hours before the Mumbai Marathon yesterday, Kenyan pace-setter Gideon Kipketer was chatting with his elder sister Valentine, who is the holder of the women's course record here (2:24:33, set in 2013). Both Gideon and Valentine train together in western Kenya's Eldoret region, famous for its distance runners.

Kenya's Gideon Kipketer at Marine Drive during the Mumbai Marathon yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Kenya's Gideon Kipketer at Marine Drive during the Mumbai Marathon yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The discussion, according to one of the interpreters here, was about how tough the up and down Mumbai course is and about how Gideon planned to do his job as pace-setter and leave the race around the 30-km mark.

Valentine's experience
"Valentine is fit, but not in peak fitness as she only began training six months ago, having delivered a child over a year back. So, she didn't expect to win this time. As for Gideon, there was absolutely no talk about him winning here," Jurrie van der Velden, of Global Sports Communications, the Netherlands-based company that manages elite marathoners including the Kipketer brother-sister duo, told mid-day yesterday.

Jurrie van der Velden of Global Sports Communications - the Netherlands-based company that manages elite marathoners including the Kipketer brother-sister duo
Jurrie van der Velden of Global Sports Communications, the Netherlands-based company that manages elite marathoners including the Kipketer brother-sister duo

Contrary to popular belief though, Kipketer did not just win the marathon, but he also went on to do it in record time — 2:08:35, shaving almost a second off the 2013 record of 2:09:32 set by Ugandan Jackson Kiprop. And guess who was egging him on throughout the race? Jurrie, who was riding pillion on a bike that was leading the elite athletes.

"We knew that Gideon was in good form during training, but even I did not expect him to do it like this (new course record). I was chatting with Gideon throughout. At the 30-km mark he was supposed to think about ending his race soon, but he said he was feeling good, so I said let's see for another kilometre. At the 31-km mark then he said the same thing, so I thought let's go on for another 1000 meters. "Finally, at 33 kms, I did a final check on him, and he said 'I'm good to go on' and the rest, as they say, is history," explained Jurrie.

Gideon unchallenged
The race panned out as expected from the start, with the 18 elite distance-running African pearls strung together along the Queen's Necklace. On the way back however, the pearls were scattered, with one — Gideon — prominently racing ahead, unchallenged and alone, leaving a vacuum of at least 300 meters, if not more, behind him.
Gideon kept looking back as he broke off confidently, in between smiling at spectators cheering him from the footpath and even flashing the thumbs-up sign as he sped across Marine Drive on the homestretch.

Gideon Kipketer's sister Valentine finished third in the international women's category, clocking  2:34:07. Pic/Satej Shinde
Gideon Kipketer's sister Valentine finished third in the international women's category, clocking 2:34:07. Pic/Satej Shinde

"He could have probably done a 2:07, but with no one challenging him, he simply dropped the pace and eased off. In the final kilometre or so, I told him that the course record is on and he sprinted off again," said Jurrie. Gideon pocketed a cool USD 56,000 for his effort (winner's prize cheque of USD plus USD 15,000 bonus for breaking the course record). He was followed in second by Ethiopia's Seboka Dibaba (2:09:20), while Marius Kimutai of Kenya (2:09:39) came third.

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