Kirui itching to dance to marathon victory in Rio

By emmanuel sabuni
Dec 22, 2021
  • Abel Kirui dances after winning the race in Daegu, South Korea in 2011.(Photo: File)

  • Abel Kirui during the interview in Iten.(Photo by Emmanuel Sabuni//0

Small town of Kapsabet, christened Source of Champions is home to some of the world and Olympic champions that influenced the town council to name some streets after 800m greats- Olympic champions Wilfred Bungei and Pamela Jelimo and world champion Janeth Jepkosgei.

Alex Kirui hankers for this recognition too.

Kirui is teeming with talent that he hopes can help him make the cut for the Olympic Games. The runner wants to better the silver from the 2012 London Olympics silver medalist to gold in Brazil after losing to Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich.

Then he can break into a dance one more time if he can cross the line first. It has been so long since the jigs in Berlin in 2009 and Daegu 2011.   

"Once I cross Tokyo marathon finish line, that is the time when Kenyans will start to know Kirui is very much available and have confidence in me once selected in the national team to run in Brazil,"he said.

Kirui blazed the trails in the 42km race at two consecutive worlds three years after making his debut as a pace setter for Ethiopian Haile Gebrselessie at the 2006 Berlin Marathon.

“I paced for him (Haile Gebrselassie) for the first time in marathon. After 21km mark, I felt that I should finish the race even if by use of my knees. At 38km, the motorbike man told me ‘Kirui, you are just behind Gebrselassie by 40seconds, you have energy’ this motivated me and I finished the race eighth,” Kirui said.    

Kirui hopes that his performance at the Tokyo marathon on February 28, 2021 will sway the selectors when they choose the Olympic marathon squad in April. 

“My injury distracted my preparations for world championships(Beijing) but now am 100% prepared for Brazil Olympics next year. I want to start my journey to Olympics at the Tokyo marathon in February,” said the ever jovial Kirui in Iten.

“I ran Tokyo(2014) with 70% fitness and now am 100% fit to face other men on the course. I performed dismally but I am sure I will be doing my best on return on the course," the staunch Seventh Day Adventist faithful offered confidently. 

The greatest win 

In May 2015, Kirui broke the Scotiabank Blue Nose half marathon course record in 1:04:03:3 leaving second placed Jason Guy trailing 15 minutes behinds as he crossed the line in 1:19:43:0.

“That was my greatest win of lifetime, leaving behind my competitor with such big time and distance,” he said from his training base at the high altitude training centre of Iten in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

While schooling at Kimaren Secondary school and Samitei primary, he represented his school in almost all races including steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m trying his luck in every available distance race.  

He was ranked 6th as the fastest man in 2007 Berlin marathon before setting a new Vienna marathon course record of 2:07:38, three minutes faster.

His record racing across several marathons in Asia and Europe is impressive..  

Kirui's unbridled love for athletics and the Armed forces right from childhood.A go-getter.  

“I could walk almost 10km away to follow that military parade on TV during national holiday celebrations. And that’s what actually drives me up to now,” said.

Tergat his hero

The last born in a family of four boys, two of them- Michael Rotich and James Songok- are also leading athletes. developed interest in athletics as he looked to emulate Paul Tergat, the former world marathon record holder.

“I used to write with a marker pen the name ‘Tergat’ in my school games T-shirt and longed that one day I would be like him,” said Kirui an Inspector in the Administration Police in Kapsabet, his fast rise pegged on promotions after his two world titles.

“That was not enough as I had another encounter with Tergat. He handed me an award at the 2009 Sports Personality of the Year (SOYA) gala,” he said.

After high school he saw his dream come true in what started as a chase for formal employment and to fulfill a life-time ambition to serve in the disciplined forces turned to be a big boom for him.

“We were nine people competing for one pay-slip and I won while my competitor was 200m away,” he said evident of his self-drive. The father of two -Joylene Jepleting and Mark Kipchumba who are greatly inspired and proud of their fathers’ pictures from Berlin and Moscow when he won the marathon gold medals.  

“Because I am always away, Joylene usually bidsthe pictures good-night before she sleeps,"he said clutching on a topping perfomance that could earn him the ultimate honour,a street named after him in his home town.