Things don’t just happen. They are made to happen and even in the most spectacular fashion imaginable.
Kenyan athletics stars’ storyline has always had the rags to riches storyline.
And the same will certainly feature tomorrow morning at the Sapporo Park in Japan, –the course for Olympic marathon showdown.
From serving as milk transporters, operating posho millers to herding cows; the stars have no doubt come a long way.
The three are Olympic marathon defending champion Eliud Kipchoge, Boston Marathon winner Lawrence Cherono and world marathon bronze medalist Amos Kipruto.
After completing Form Four at Kaptel High School, Kipchoge tried his hand in business.
“He started operating butchery and later opted to buy milk and transported using her mother’s bicycle to Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC),” Janeth Rotich, Kipchoge’s mother, said in an earlier interview..
But Kipchoge’s journey to stardom offers refreshing moments in athletics – it simply inspires and warms the hearts of budding athletes.
While transporting almost 150 litres of milk to KCC, Kipchoge’s bicycle broke down in Kimondi area –some five kilometres away.
“He decided to run to his friend Daniel far away to borrow another bicycle. He impressed his peers on the roads who asked him to enter an athletics competition in Kapsabet that weekend. Kipchoge gave it a shot.
“He finished second in the race and he made the then Nandi District to provincials in Kitale where he finished second and proceeded to nationals in Mombasa,” she said.
By and by, he visited his neighbour Patrick Sang, the 1992 Olympic 3,000m steeplechase silver medalist and asked him for a training programme.
Sang did not hesitate to offer help him and Kipchoge did not disappoint. He strictly followed the programme.
He later requested Sang to buy him a stopwatch. And the rest is history.
Kipchoge is the last born in a family of four –two sons and two daughters.
Cherono, who is also the reigning Chicago Marathon winner, has an exciting journey to stardom.
When economic hardships turned worse, Cherono left his rural home in Barwesa in Baringo and made headway to Eldoret where he was employed by his elder brother to operate a posho mill business in Jerusalem along Eldoret-Iten Road. It’s called Milan Posho Mill.
“I have come a long way. Life has not been easy for me. But I had to persevere operating the posho mill until I decided to take up athletics,” he said.
His 2:03:04 personal best ranks him seventh fastest marathoner in the world.
Cherono, the marathoner known for his jaw-dropping sprint finishes that leave rivals gasping for breath, is expected to offer stiff competition.
He trains under Rosa Associati camp in Kiptagat and would pull a surprise on his Olympic debut.
The two-time Amsterdam marathon winner says he has trained his sights on the Olympics.
Last December, Cherono clocked his 2:03:04 personal best at the Valencia marathon, coming second behind surprise winner Evans Chebet. He is ranked seventh fastest marathoner in the world.
The former Prague and Honolulu winner said he will consider, with the advise of his manager, taking part in races towards the end of the year – after an expected bruising battle at the Olympics.
Kipruto, the world marathon bronze medalist, is not your typical Kenyan athlete.
From childhood, Kipruto nursed lofty dreams: to stage excellent shows in athletics. And it has come to pass.
Kipruto, who put on hold his athletics desires to concentrate on academics, seems to follow in the counsel of American author Les Brown who once said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will still land among the stars.”
The former Rome Marathon winner, still draws inspiration from former world marathon record holder Paul Tergat.
He said he picked his running skills from Tergat and former Olympic marathon champion, the late Sammy Wanjiru.
The 28-year-old athlete said he watches their clips online especially ahead of major races.
“I love their fighting spirit especially in the final stages of races. They produced unexpected victories. In most cases, I watch their clips to pick some tactical skills,” said Kipruto, runner up at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.
His memorable clip is that of Wanjiru battling Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kabede at the 2010 Chicago Marathon.
“In that clip, Wanjiru was behind at 35km to 40km but he produced a powerful kick in the last two kilometres. It clearly shows that while competing in a marathon, you must have courage and stamina to run faster than expected,” he said.
Positive lessons he learned from the late Sammy Wanjiru, former Olympic marathon winner.
While I was a young boy, Kipruto said he used to compete in inter-school games lining up in 5000m. “By then, the late Sammy Wanjiru was at the top level. I loved watching him compete. His videos are being watched by many people up to now. His running style was wonderful. And luckily, the coach who trained him is now my coach,” he said.
Kipruto, who finished second when Eliud Kipchoge set the world marathon record at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, said his training runs smoothly.
“My body is responding well. I am ready for the Olympic Games. I started preparing it in April and all has been well.
“My coach and my management follow every step I make in my training. Olympics is something special for me. Representing the country, carrying the national flag is like having the millions of Kenyan hopes in your feet.
“I am under no pressure at the moment. I decided to put training a priority first and then plan for the race day. Preparations will determine the results. I am happy to race again with Eliud Kipchoge, who is my mentor,” he said.