Twenty-three-year old 2012 London Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist Stephen Kiprotich, of Uganda, is currently preparing to compete in the 2013 Virgin London Marathon on Sunday, April 21st. He owns a personal best time of 2:07:20, which he accomplished at the 2011 Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands, the the Ugandan record. His Olympic medal is the first gold for his country since his personal hero John Akii-Bua won won the 400m event at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
Kiprotich is the youngest of seven children of farmers from Kapchorwa District, near the Uganda-Kenya border. Kiprotich quit athletics to concentrate on school during the years of 2004 to 2006. At the age of 17, he quit school and moved to Kenya’s Rift Valley, to train for the marathon with Eliud Kipchoge.
3000 Metres – 7:48.06
5000 Metres – 13:23.70
10,000 Metres – 27:58.03
10 Kilometres – 28:19
Half Marathon – 1:01:15
Marathon – 2:07:20
Christopher Kelsall: Since winning the 2012 London Olympic Marathon – the first Olympic medal of any colour for Uganda since 1996 – has your notoriety at home changed much? How have Ugandan’s responded to your win?
Stephen Kiprotich: Yes, it has changed. Before I used to be unknown, now I am known! I celebrated my gold medal when I arrived in Uganda. Wow, that was fantastic moment ever in my life. So many people where waiting for me even H.E. Mr. Museveni. There were a lot of ceremonies and parties planned as we stayed long without a medal, 40 years. In the past month there have been a lot of ceremonies and official functions. These moments are inspirational moments for both me and the community of Uganda.
CK: What are your upcoming marathon goals? Are you planning to run one of the marathon majors in 2013?
SM: Now I am preparing for London Marathon, and after London marathon I will prepare myself for the World Championships in Moscow in August. So far everything has been going on well and I feel good and I am looking forward competing again against the world best athletes in London. I ran a half-marathon on the 3rd of February in Granollers in Spain and won in a personal best time of 61:15 so that’s a good sign for things to come.
CK: Would you suggest your Olympic marathon time of 2:08:01 that you ran in hot and humid conditions indicates that you are capable of much more?
SM: You know, I haven’t had the opportunity to run a fast marathon yet. Out of four marathons I run I have run two Championships (OG 2012 and WC 2011), one marathon as a pacemaker and one as a “free-man”. From now on I will have the possibility to run a marathon and target an improvement of my 2.07.20 time set in my first marathon.
CK: So you will be making an effort to race for time in the near future to better your personal best?
SM: Yes, the big challenge ahead of course is to remain among the world’s best marathon runners. I need to make a big step ahead as my personal best is not good enough to be among them. I at least need to run 2.05 in the next year or so and from there my goal will be to be among those on the podium in World Championships and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
CK: Your final 3kms in the Olympic marathon was just too fast for the two Kenyans Kirui and Kipsang, who finished second and third, respectively. Did you spend much of your final training program working on a late surge like that? Or do you feel that general high mileage gave you the endurance to pick up the pace at that point?
SM: I can only say that I go with the training program of Coach Patrick Sang. I follow whatever training program he will give me. For me it doesn’t feel like it’s something I have planned in training, I know we do high mileage which will assist me. I just felt at that point that I was strong and good to go and I did.
CK: When you heard the Ugandan national anthem at the medal ceremony, can you describe the feeling?
SM: It was a big surprise and honor to me. You know in our country they only play the anthem for important people such as the president and ministers.
CK: You seem to have improved in cross-country each year that you competed in the IAAF World Championships, running five of six years and finishing as high as sixth in 2011. Will you go back to competing in cross?
SM: This is something coach will decide, as I said earlier if he wants me to run cross-country I will. He is the one who made it possible for me to win a gold medal in Olympics that’s something I will never forget, you need to respect that. Maybe I will run as part of training but not as a goal anymore. I have left the track to move to long distance and road running so that is what I am doing right now.
CK: You received help from a New York-based agency called, “A Running Start”, they allowed you to focus on training in Kenya. From this help you received from A Running Start, where you inspired to work with the Musketier Marathon that helps children in Uganda?
SM: They helped me training in my early years in Uganda, when I moved to Kenya it was my management Global Sports Communication who assisted me and guided me. However “A Running Start” definitely gave me an opportunity in 2005 and 2006 when I left school to run. Now I am in the fortunate position I am able to help people and together with Musketier Marathon and Compassion International we can make a difference, they are good partners in this.
CK: Will you be running in that event?
SM: I won’t be running the Musketier Marathon, but I do support the 130 men who come all the way to Uganda to run the marathon. It is great that they choose Uganda for this charity event.
CK: Have you returned to school that you missed after the age of 17 to pursue a running career? What is your area of study?
SM: I like school so much, but due to lacking of funds I couldn’t continue. Now I have sent my wife to school as she needs more education to help her and our children. She likes farming a lot, but I also think it is important for her to learn something more than just that. For now my school career is on-hold, but after my running career I am sure I will return as I know there is a lot left to learn. Which area? I don’t know yet, but think something with sports!