If your name is Ann Smith, Ali Ahmed, or Liu Chen, chances are you’re going to meet quite a few folks with the same moniker in your lifetime. But although Cheruiyot is a common Kenyan name, and there are a lot of good Kenyans among the relatively restricted band of world class marathon runners, you would hardly expect three by the name of Robert K Cheruiyot. ‘Fraid so!
Hence the confusion when Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the Commerzbank Frankfurt Marathon a year ago in a course record 2.07. 21, and on his debut no less. Sure enough, when the newspaper ‘cuttings’ came through, half the pictures were of Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, four-time winner of the Boston Marathon.
Perhaps we should think ourselves fortunate that, although he is still competing, Robert Kiprotich Cheruiyot is not running as well as when he clocked 2.08.13 in Amsterdam six years ago.
The Boston Cheruiyot then became a Muslim, and tried to change his name to Omar Ahmed, but race directors understandably didn’t like that – who’d pay an appearance fee to Omar Ahmed when you can get a Robert K, and publicity?
“Nothing to do with me,” laughed ‘Kiprono’ Friday morning, of Kipkoech’s name change. Kiprono is back in Frankfurt for the defence of his title on Sunday (25th).
His course record victory prompted a life-change for him. His coach, William Kiplagat, a successful marathoner himself, had paid the then 20 year old’s air fare for his first trip abroad, on the recognition that it would be reimbursed if the youngster ran a sub-2.14.
Kiplagat not only got the air far fare back, his charge won well over 50,000 euros as well.
“Everyone was so happy,” said this Robert K at the Frankfurt press conference this morning (Friday). I was able to build a new house for my family, and my mother now has ten cows instead of three. I’ve also bought a plot of land in Eldoret, and have plans to build a house for myself”. And for his girl-friend, Mercy, who he will marry next April, following a return trip to the Boston Marathon.
Because, to confuse matters even more in the name game, ‘Kiprono’ ran his second marathon in Boston earlier this year, but only finished fifth. “I had a problem with my hamstrings, and the course was so up and down, it made them worse”.
That’s all solved now, he says, and he sets out in his Frankfurt title defence, knowing that he is in similar shape to his training colleague, Vincent Kipruto, who shattered the course record in Paris last April, with 2.05.47, one of the world’s best times.
‘Kiprono’ certainly has time on his side, he’s still only 21. But his task on Sunday will be no easier for that. Frankfurt is fast climbing the quality scale in international marathon terms, and with Commerzbank behind them, the organisers have tempted 15 sub-2.09 men to the race.
“I think he will be dangerous,” said ‘Kiprono,’ pointing at the name of compatriot, Jason Mbote on the entry list. Mbote seemed to agree. He ran 2.07.37 in Seoul, Korea last year, and his young training partner, Gilbert Kirwa, who won Vienna in 2.08.21, in very warm conditions on his debut earlier this year, also gave the nod to Mbote.
Along with another Kenyan, Wilson Kigen, who ran a personal best 2.08.16 for second last year, they all plan to go through the half-marathon in close to 63 minutes, and the likelihood is that there will still be a gang of at least a dozen at that pace.
The 28th edition of Germany’s oldest city marathon is expected to have over 13000 starters this year, and will feature once again it’s unusual indoor finish, complete with fireworks and oompah band in the FestHalle, the old city exhibition hall. The weather forecast looks perfect, with light rain and temperatures between 7 and 13C predicted (mid-40s to mid-50sF).
In the women’s race, popular favourite Luminita Zaituc will be running her farewell marathon before retirement. She admits that, at 41 she is unlikely to challenge for victory this time, but she won here twice, and her personal best of 2.26.01 from 2001 is still one of the fastest in Frankfurt.
Atsede Bayisa of Ethiopia is favourite, after her personal best victory, 2.24.42 in Paris this year. Her challengers will be one of the Nurgalieva twins, Olesya, who won here in 2004, and ran a personal best 2.27.37 for second last year; and the Kenyan duo of Agnes Kiprop and Rose Cheruiyot, no relation, incidentally to any of those named Robert K Cheruiyot.
(There will be live text of the event at www.frankfurt-marathon.com, beginning at 10.00 local time, not forgetting that clocks go back one hour, earlier that morning)