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After helping Kipchoge create history, ‘kingmaker’ Kiptanui wants to be ‘king’ at 2019 ADHM

Sayan Mukherjee

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Eric Kiptanui
Eric Kiptanui is considered to be the dark horse at the 2019 ADHM. Photo: @IAAF

New Delhi: Reflected glory is not necessarily a bad thing, there’s a certain pleasure to be derived from it. But after setting pace for Eliud Kipchoge’s epoch-making sub-two hour marathon run at Vienna, ‘kingmaker’ Eric Kiptanui now wants to become the ‘king’ at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM).

Kenyan Kiptanui was the captain of the 14 pacemakers for his compatriot’s Ineos 1:59 Challenge, where Kipchoge became the first person to run a marathon (42.2km) under two hours. He broke the sub-two barrier by running a marathon in 1:59:40.

However, Kipchoge’s achievement, however, is not an official record as his run in Vienna didn’t adhere to standard marathon rules.

“I was a little bit nervous. I wanted Kipchoge to run harder towards the end,” Kiptanui said on Friday.

Marathon world record holder Kipchoge had assembled a 41-person pacing team, a compilation of some of the best runners, to help him achieve the mark.

The runners chosen were either one of the fastest in 2019, a continental champion, World Championship or Olympic finalist, national record holder or some combination of the four.

While being grateful to have been at such a close proximity of a historic moment in athletics, Kiptanui now wants to be the man making the headlines.

“Ofcourse I want to be the king. I think after Eliud I will get the chance to be the headline maker,” the 29-year-old said.

Though a specialist half marathoner on the long-distance athletics circuit, Kiptanui will be making his debut at the Delhi half marathon this year.

His stock has steadily increased over the last two years with wins at the 2018 Lisbon Half Marathon, Berlin Half Marathon and the Barcelona Half Marathon in 2019

“I enjoy running half marathons. But I am progressing towards the marathons now,” he informed.

He anticipates a tough fight on Sunday from Ethiopia’s Andamlak Belihu, the defending ADHM champion, who would be looking to better his compatriot Guye Adola’s course record (59:06).

Belihu clocked 59:18 to win last year but missed out on the course record by 12 seconds. Belihu also won the TCS World 10K title in Bengaluru in May.

“It was a little frustrating just missing out on the course record last year but after coming here and doing well in Delhi in the last two years, I have experience and think I know what it takes go faster. The most important thing is to win but if the pace is good, I can beat the course record,” commented the 20-year-old Belihu.

“I have trained after Vienna to freshen up my body and I am ready to run on Sunday,” Kiptanui said.

“Ethiopians are tough. They have power to finish races strongly whereas Kenyans often don’t have enery at the finish line.”

While the Kenya vs Ethiopia East African battle will be the highlight of the men’s race this year, the women’s field will be led by defending champion Tsehay Gemechu. Ethiopian Gemechu of Ethopia set a course record of 66:50 last year.

ADHM 2019

The top men and female athletes at a 2019 ADHM event in New Delhi on Friday.

Kenyan-born Kazakhstan national Caroline Kipkirui, the fastest woman in the race with a best of 65:07, will be Gemechu’s leading rival.

“This will be a very tough race. The Ethiopian women are very strong but don’t discount me and the Kenyans like (Edith) Chelimo and (Irene) Cheptai,” said Kipkirui, who is sixth on the all-time list for the distance.

The ADHM’s 15th edition will flaunt seven sub-60 minute runners among men and nine sub-70 minute runners among women.

Over 40,000 will participate in various races on Sunday. The men’s and women’s winners will get richer by $27,000. The total prize money purse (men and women combined) is $275,000.

Joint managing director of the ADHM, an IAAF Gold Label Race, promotors Procam International, Vivek Singh, said he was glad to “have both our defending champions come back to the ADHM.”

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Sayan Mukherjee is the Content Head at Sports Lounge. He has over 10 years of experience in sports journalism (print and digital) having worked for some of the leading media organisations in the country including The Statesman, The Asian Age, IANS and Sports Illustrated.

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