Thursday, November 4, 2010

NYC bound: James Kwambai

By Mutwiri Mutuota for The Standard

Twice, James Kwambai has played the bridesmaid in epic marathons and as he prepares to compete at Sunday’s race at the Big Apple.

Kwambai comes to the New York Marathon, the last of the called ‘Big Five’ this year as the third fastest runner over the distance with his 2:04:27 career best. That’s half the story though.

At last year’s Rotterdam Marathon, Kwambai was the unwilling second-best runner in one of the fastest 42km races ever staged when compatriot Duncan Kibet edged him at the finish line where both were given the same time.

The year earlier at the Berlin Marathon, Kwambai was also on the receiving end of history, finishing second to Haile Gebrselassie as he raced to the 2:03:59 standing world record.

Scant mention was paid to his 2:05:36 effort that was the seventh fastest of all time at that period or even the challenge he took to the Ethiopian at the 2008 Berlin Marathon before the maestro took off for his moment of history.

Trained Hard

According to Kwambai’s coach, David Letting, his charge is out to ensure he is not part of history making but to be the main talking point himself.

"He is prepared, committed and trained hard for it," he told FeverPitch from Eldoret yesterday as his runner who left for the Big Apple prepares to face Gebreselassie, the headliner of the race for the sequel.

Kwambai is among the elite armada that will be out to maintain an astonishing sequence of dominance Kenyan male runners have strung in marathon running.

According to an article by Dave Monti posted on Race Running Weekly dated October 28, Kenyan men had won 38 out of 42 marathons since the fall season begun on September 5.

That sequence has since expanded to include further victories in Frankfurt where Wilson Kipsang ran a jaw dropping 2:04:57, Raymond Bett (2:12:40) topped Athens as upstart debutant David Barmasai (2:10:31) helped himself to the Nairobi Stanchart Marathon title on Sunday.

Dominate Races

"They are dominating and will continue to dominate these races because of the preparation our runners are putting into these races. They are committed, willing to listen to instructions and working very hard," Letting, who has been involved in the national team set up for the last seven years, explained.

He discounted claims that a huge payday in marathon has sparked the surge for top honours in the punishing 42km race.

"Although it is a factor, money is not the main reason why our runners are excelling in this marathon. The desire to win and make a name and the fact they know which races they are going to well in advance is the key as they plan good preparations and training for them."

Besides Kwambai, world champion, Abel Kirui and Berlin silver winner, Emmanuel Mutai and Gilbert Kirwa who won last year’s Frankfurt and Vienna marathons complete Kenya’s elite men arsenal for New York.