Elkanah Kibet at oregon22
Elkanah Kibet on Friday in Eugene in advance of the 2022 World Athletics Championships Marathon (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, with permission to use

EUGENE (16-Jul) — At 39 years old with 14 marathons under his belt, Elkanah Kibet says he has never been in a better place, both physically and mentally, to run a great marathon. 

The Asics-sponsored athlete, who is a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army where he works as a budget analyst, will be running his third World Athletics Championships Marathon on Sunday here.  He’s coming off a pair of recent excellent performances: fourth place at the 2021 TCS New York City Marathon in 2:11:15, the race which qualified him for these championships, and ninth at the 2022 Boston Marathon in a personal best 2:09:07.

“I think experience is the key in marathon,” Kibet told Race Results Weekly on Friday in an interview.  “I think I’m going to take the experience I had in New York, experience I’ve had in Boston; those have been a huge success.  Starting in New York –a huge success for me– coming back and I was able to translate to Boston, and I’m going to translate here, too.”

This will be Kibet’s third consecutive World Athletics Championships Marathon.  In London in 2017, he finished 16th in 2:15:14.  In Doha in 2019, in atrociously hot and humid weather when the race was held in the middle of the night, he finished 38th in 2:19:33.

But here in Oregon, Kibet is hoping that the cool morning weather in Eugene, only about 55F/13C, will play to his advantage.  He’s thinking that Sunday’s race will be more like the fall or spring big-city marathons he’s used to instead of the hot and humid suffer-fests that most of the summer championships marathons inevitably become.

“Yes, I’m very excited,” he said, wearing a light blue surgical mask as he spoke.  “I woke up this morning at 6:00 it was about 54, 53 and I told myself, there are so many places this championship could be held, but this was the right moment, the best moment, for the marathon to come here at this time.  I don’t know if there has been a world championship where it’s cooler like this.  So this is like, everybody will remember this one.  I’m going to do my best and I’m going to make it count.”

To get ready for Sunday, Kibet did most of his training on his own.  Although he still lives and trains in Colorado Springs, he is no longer part of the American Distance Project training group coached by Scott Simmons, and is no longer training under the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program (the Kenyan-born athlete received his U.S. citizenship through the Army in 2015).  Instead, he gets training assistance from former steeplechaser Haron Lagat who supports Kibet through his workouts.

“I am completely out of Scott’s group, and I’ve done that since New York last year,” Kibet explained.  “I’ve just been training on my own.”  He continued: “Haron Lagat is helping with the timing, and sometimes he jumps in with my workouts or my runs,” Kibet explained.  “We run together. He helps support me, so he’s there for me.”

World Athletics Championships are notoriously unpredictable and have a high athlete drop-out rate.  In the previous 17 editions of these championships for men, on average only 71.5% of athletes finished the race.  The lowest was 60% in 1991 in Tokyo.  In Doha three years ago only 66.3% finished.  Given the much cooler weather here, more men are likely to stay in the race to the finish.

Kibet said that while his training block for these championships was very strong, he plans to stay patient and be tactical.  He said he learned that running aggressively can often backfire in a marathon.

“I would go to races, I run 40-k and I’m tired,” Kibet said of some of his earlier marathons.  “I did the best training, I thought.  I’m supposed to be winning.  But, you get smarter, a little bit.  It’s not about how fast you run, it’s about how strong and your endurance.  You do that, and you become a successful marathon runner.”

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