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Iten's King Kipsang in ten

His rival Mo Farah may be an established international brand, but comparatively little is known about the world's fastest marathon man Wilson Kipsang. Fear not, SPIKES is here to fill you in, with ten facts about the running hero of Iten, Kenya.

1. Late bloomer

“Even at school, with little training, I found I could compete very well. I used to finish in 5000m and 10,000m races at school in the top three. Back then I was not mentally focused to be an athlete,” he tells SPIKES.

Kipsang took up running seriously aged 20, and didn't run a marathon until he was 28: when he clocked 2:07:13 in Paris in 2010. “I was really curious to see how I could do in the marathon. My performance gave me enough confidence that I could improve.”

Six months later, he ran 2:04:57 in Frankfurt. Only 25 men have ever gone sub-2:05 for the marathon (compared to 90 sprinters who have broken the 10-second barrier for the 100m).

2. Sound of the police

Prior to taking up running full time, Wilson Kipsang worked as a policeman. He served for three years before his running career took off. You'd imagine he was pretty good at it, especially chasing robbers on foot.

3. Generous guy

Kipsang's known to regularly pay for tea and lunch for his 40-strong training group. "It is a way of getting togetherness in the group. They are assisting me, but I am also assisting them," he says. "They don’t have much. I might buy them a light lunch of rice, beef, bananas and water.”

4. Inspired by Tergat

Keyna's former marathon world record holder and five-time world cross country champion Paul Tergat was a hero to the young Kipsang.

“He inspired me very much, because he was someone well known to me."


Wilson Kipsang - Marathon Man from SCC EVENTS on Vimeo.

5. His training partner's even quicker

One of the other runners in his training group is Geoffrey Mutai: the other fastest marathon man in history. Although Kipsang holds the world record of 2:03:23, Mutai ran 2:03:02 in Boston, on a course deemed illegal for record purposes.

“It is a good training combination,” says Kipsang.

6. Taking care of business

Like many East African athletes, Kipsang has a keen eye for business opportunities. He owns a hotel and restaurant in Iten, called the Keellu Resort Centre. Members of the Chinese athletics teams were recent guests, and the restaurant is popular with many of Iten's world-class runners.

7. Running in the family

Kipsang insists his endurance talent comes from his father, Joseph Rotich. Even today, at the age of 72, his father can still power out a 100km walk.

“He can still do it and he can beat me,” says Kipsang.

8. His own boss

Wilson Kipsang is self-coached, and has been for much of his career. He has taken the advice of coaches, but feels he operates better without one.

9. No slacker

Despite being without a coach, Kipsang trains relentlessly. He runs twice most days, and in an average week racks up about 160km. His longest runs are 40-45km.

10. Big sipper

On the podium in Berlin, Kipsang was awarded a huge stein of beer. He took a sip, but what SPIKES really wants to know is: did he finish it?

"No," he tells us. "Although that drink was actually alcohol free."