Friday, November 5, 2010

mzungo exclusive: Abel Kirui

Always ready for a smile, Abel Kirui has the goods to put his competition in a world of hurt as he has shown at last year's Marathon World Championship race in Berlin. He pulled away from fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai to win in a championship best of 2:06:54. Mind you, it was a warm summer day in Berlin and no pacemakers around. If you have a guy of Kirui's talent for championship races, you inevitably want to see him race New York. Abel already showed up at NYC Marathon in 2008 but had to pay first timer dues back then.

Kirui lives and trains in Kapsabet, an hour away of Eldoret in the opposite direction of Iten. He has a good bunch of athletes training with him who spread from their base to take the center stages of Frankfurt, Chicago, Vienna and New York.

His great grandfather's favorite story for the kids: how he caught antelopes by running after them (classic!). The story inspired little Abel to run and he never looked back.

In April this year, Abel finished London in fifth place in a respectable 2:08:04. It was a good race but was it good enough to win NYC?
"Certainly I improved my training for New York. I ran more mileage. For example, my long run workouts at marathon pace used to be 24k and I increased them to 28k."

And what about the speed?
"My coach was telling me that the speed is strong."

Any hill training?
"Of course I trained specifically for the hills in New York. I realized that this is something I had to do. Kapsabet is great for hill training. We go down to the town of Nandi Hills and run back up to Kapsabet. It's so tough, we only do it every other week to not overtrain."

So, what's the typical mileage?
"I don't know. Usually we do a 1:40h, maybe 1:50h workout in the morning and a 40 min jog in the evening. Sometimes a third run."

What's his strategy for this year?
"I want to go with the group until 38k and then I will try my luck."

I told him that Hendrick Ramaala said he will go on First Avenue. Abel laughs, "Ha, ha, ok! If you sprint 100 meters there, you can run maybe 41 kilometers but then you are done. That's not good!" [laughs]

If Abel is still in the mix at 38k, everything seems possible. We spoke to coach and agent Claudio Berardelli. Kirui was one of his three picks.
Get ready for a big Abel Kirui smile.