Sports

Zim marathon champ pitches camp in Kenya, chases Olympic ticket

NAIROBI. — The Kapsait Athletics Training Camp in Elgeyo Marakwet County is proving to be a distance running Mecca of sorts with an increasing number of elite foreign athletes pitching camp at this address, some 3 000 metres above sea level, seeking improved performance.

The camp was catapulted into global limelight when Kenyan Brigid Kosgei, who trains at Kapsait, broke the women’s marathon world record at the 2019 Chicago Marathon, lowered Paula Radcliffe’s previous mark of two hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds to the new best 2:14:04.

The camp is also home to a number of athletes who are currently doing well in various events including the World Under-20 Championships’ 5 000 metres gold medalist Edward Zakayo. 

Zimbabwe’s top-ranked men’s marathon star Munyaradzi Jari is one of the foreign elites who have picked their spot at Kapsait, seeking to improve personal best times and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Jari has pitched camp at Kapsait since October last year, already fulfilling his dream of training with the world’s best distance runners at their home turf.

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Kapsait is a village in the Lelan division of West Pokot District. It is situated in the Rift Valley, approximately 600 kilometres north of Kenya capital Nairobi. 

In an exclusive interview with Nation Sport last week, Jari said when he set foot at Kapsait, he found a training programme quite different from what he was used to back at home in Zimbabwe, and is happy his performance has improved tremendously, confident he will lower his personal best time from 2:14:02 – clocked in Durban two-and-a-half years ago – to 2:07, or even 2:06 after his stint at Kapsait.

His other distance personal best times are 48:59 (15 kilometres) and 1:05:08 (half marathon), both clocked in Durban, South Africa, in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

He will be looking forward to compete in one of the marathon races in a bid to get a qualification mark to compete at the Tokyo Olympics Games’ marathon race in Sapporo in August as a stepping stone to next year’s World Championships in Eugene.

The Olympic qualifying standard for the men’s marathon is 2:11:30.

“I have been training in the region since October and I must say this has sharpened me and my target is to compete in one of the marathons where I will be looking for a qualification mark to compete in the Olympics Games,” said Jari.

He added that training in Kenya has given him another experience through coach Erick Kimaiyo where he said that he has done a lot of things that are not in Zimbabwe.

“I have learnt good techniques and this has really changed my life because back at home we were just running. It has been a few months of training and our coach is a good person who knows what an athlete needs before he or she competes and I just feel different,” he said.

Jari said that if he follows the programme well, he will be able to run to 2:06 or 2:07, a time which will be a huge improvement on his current best time of 2:14:02.

“Coach Kimaiyo, in one of his advices, told me that if I continue with the same programme, I will be able to run even 2:04 which will be good for me. My target going forward is to represent my country well and I have to sacrifice for that,” added Jari who is married with two children.

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He has been dreaming of joining athletes in Kenya for training and many of his compatriots now ask him how he managed to travel to Kenya and join the big fish.

He hopes to tag along some talented one to his new-found base at Kapsait.

“Since 2012 I wanted to come and train in Kenya and my dream came true when I arrived here. I was even more privileged to join the world record holder in the women’s marathon, Brigid Kosgei, who has also been motivating me to work harder and improve on my performance,” he says.

“I have seen how training is done and I can understand why records and medals come from this region. My compatriots are also eyeing to come here and they have been asking me about this place and I’m happy Kimaiyo is ready to accommodate them,” he said.

HERALD