Amazingly, the final kilometre of the race was Samwel Mailu’s fastest on Sunday. Despite the final section of the Vienna City Marathon being less flat than the roads in the Prater Park, the Kenyan stormed through the 42nd kilometre in 2:44. This is faster than Eliud Kipchoge ran in Vienna back in 2019. While of course just one kilometre, it still indicates that there is much more to come from Mailu. “In the future, I hope to be able to run 2:03 in the marathon and around 58 minutes in the half marathon,“ he said. Looking ahead towards the autumn season he added, “I would like to run one of the major races and I would prefer a flat course like Berlin.“

Last autumn he ran his first marathon when he was entered as a pacemaker in Frankfurt and carried on and finished second in 2:07:19.

“On Sunday running in warm conditions suited me because I grew up in an area where it is warmer,“ said Mailu, whose parents are vegetable farmers. He grew up in a village called Ulawani, which is located not far from the Tanzanian border and Mount Kilimanjaro. Mailu did not live at high altitude, and in contrast to many world-class athletes from Kenya running to school did not form the basis for his career. “My school was just about one kilometre away from our home. I became interested in running when I saw my fellow pupils competing in school championships. I was 15 years old when I started training at primary school,“ explained the 30-year-old, who then moved to a different part of Kenya when he switched to high school. “There I lived about 11 kilometres away from the school, but I often took the bike to get there.“ 

Samwel Mailu in Vienna, photo credit: VCM / Jenia Symonds

Mailu says that he then did not train for three years but re-started when he was doing a college course to become a primary teacher. “I competed at the national teachers’ championships in 2019 and won the 1,500, the 5,000 and the 10,000m.“ Instead of taking up a teachers’ job he then decided to try running again. “I met my present coach Dickson Ngei and started training seriously in 2020 when I moved to his training camp in Machakos southeast of Nairobi where we train in an altitude of up to 2000 metres. We are eleven runners and our coach still competes as well. He was second in the Kilimanjaro Marathon this year.“

While Mailu’s international career is still at the beginning he already thinks about helping others to start a career in athletics as well. “In the area where I grew up football and other ball games dominate while running has not much significance. This is why I decided to organize a 10k running event there in Ulawani.“ The race will take place at the beginning of May. “We will help some young athletes by paying their school fees and try to guide them,“ explained Samwel Mailu, who has two brothers and two sisters. “One of my sisters was really talented, but unfortunately she did never start training. There are many talents in the area where I come from and I would like to help bringing them up.“

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