Giving hand up has downside

Running: Kenyan Erick Kimayo has let personal goals slide to give back to his sport and countrymen as a coach.

Baltimore Marathon

October 17, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Erick Kimayo is five years past his best season, but there's a good reason that he no longer ranks among the top 10 marathoners on the planet.

He's been busy trying to guide some of his countrymen to that territory.

Kimayo, a 33-year-old from Marakwet, Kenya, is among the men who will lead the way in the Comcast Marathon, the centerpiece in Saturday's second annual Baltimore Running Festival.

Kimayo lives at one of the high-altitude camps operated by Discovery Kenya, a program funded by Fila, but he doesn't just complete the workouts, he plans them.

"Before they coach, coaches should be runners," Kimayo said. "Whether we're doing speed work or a relaxing run, knowing how runners feel is difficult to control. When I'm out there with them, I know."

Besides sponsoring the 5-kilometer race that is part of the festival, Fila will provide elite talent for the second straight year.

The shoe company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Sparks, operates several camps directed by Gabriele Rosa, a distance-running guru from Italy. Four times a year, he visits Kapsait Camp, which sits at nearly 10,000 feet. In his absence, Kimayo has a say in the training.

His countrymen should listen.

In 1997, Kimayo was ranked No. 10 in the world by Track and Field News after an arduous, productive campaign.

In March of that year, he took fourth in London in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 8 seconds. In September, he was second to teammate Elijah Lagat in Berlin, where Kimayo posted a personal best of 2:07:43. Less than three months later, he repeated in Honolulu, in 2:12:17.

"Three marathons in one year isn't a lot," Kimayo said, "because I wasn't doing any [shorter] road races."

The only time Kimayo sees macadam roads is when he comes down from the mountains and races. Since finishing second in Honolulu in December 1999, he has competed in just one marathon, finishing second in 2:14:31 in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

"I balance the two," Kimayo said of his dual role as an athlete and coach. "I am still a runner, but I coach because I love it."

Some who have come through Kapsait Camp, where the focus is developing talent that is identified in cross country, grew from pupils to equals to preeminent.

Joseph Chebet ranked No. 1 in the world in 1999, when he was the only man in the past two decades to win in Boston and New York in the same year. Simon Biwott ranked third in 2001 based on a strong performance at the world championships.

Kimayo's outreach includes donations that built a soccer field and track for children near his home. He had planned to visit a local Police Athletic Center, but come race day, he'll think of himself.

On Sunday, Kimayo began a trek that took him from Nairobi to Milan to Amsterdam to a final landing at Dulles International Airport on Tuesday afternoon. He predicted victory in one breath, then exhaled and said, to succeed in marathons, "don't assume anything."

While Russian Elvira Kolpakova is the favorite to repeat in the women's race, Kimayo may have to work to win in Baltimore.

Discovery Kenya teammate Charles Kibiwot Seroney will not be here because of visa problems, but at least five other men entered have run 2:17:03 or faster. Martynas Drelingas and Tomas Pernaravicius are from Lithuania, and Sergey Nochevny is a Russian. Chokri Dhoudi has roots in Tunisia. Like Kimayo, 20-year-old Charles Njeru hails from Kenya.

"I'm proud because of what I've done," Kimayo said. "I keep telling the world, without Kenyans, the race is not as good. Some runners only race at the finish. Kenyans fight all the way."

At a glance

What:Baltimore Running Festival.

When:Saturday. Marathon and marathon team relay at 8 a.m.; 5K at 8:30 a.m.; Kids Fun Run at 9:20 a.m.

Where:Start and finish at staging area between Camden Yards and Ravens Stadium.

Entrants:About 2,800 for marathon; 7,000 anticipated for all four events.

Information:All races remain open. Call 410-605-9381, 800-487-0670 or visit thebaltimoremarathon.com on the Internet.

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