By Paul Gains
When Gilbert Yegon made his marathon debut in Amsterdam three years ago he instantly attracted attention as his time of 2:06:18 knocked two seconds off the course record held by the legendary Haile Gebreselassie.
Following the race he announced that, had it not been for muscle cramps suffered in the closing stages of that race, he would have also beaten the 2:06 barrier. Gebreselassie, of course, is also a two time Olympic 10,000m champion and held the world marathon record at 2:03:59 until last year.
Yegon, a 24 year old Kenyan, therefore comes to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 14th – an IAAF Silver Label race – with confidence and some very ambitious goals.
“I am hoping to run a good time – under 2 hours 6 minutes if it’s God’s will,” he declares. “I will fight to get those (time) bonuses.”
Scotiabank is offering $25,000 for a new course record which is presently held by Yegon’s countryman Kenneth Mungara at 2:07:58. And, if the course record is broken with a time under 2:06, the bonus is increased to $50,000. The winner will also receive $20,000. For a young Kenyan, whose future includes owning his own farm, this money would be a blessing.
Yegon is managed by the Dutch based Global Sports Communications and trains at their high altitude training camp in Kaptagat, a village some 40 kilometres from his home in Eldoret.
Amongst his training partners are 2012 Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda and the 2003 IAAF World 5000m champion Eliud Kipchoge. They are coached by Patrick Sang, who was himself the 1992 Olympic silver medalist in the 3,000m steeplechase.
“I run throughout the year two times a day but on Sunday I run once,” he says of his commitment. “When I am not training I relax and socialize with my fellow friends.”
Although he is grateful to the training group and to Sang’s mentorship it is fellow athlete Eliud Kipchoge, whom he credits with providing the initial inspiration for him to become a runner. Kipchoge, in addition to winning the 2003 world championship at eighteen years of age, was the 2004 Olympic 5000m bronze medalist and the 2008 Olympic 5000m silver medalist.
After finishing school at Kiptulos Secondary School in Eldoret Yegon impressed many observers with his 3rd place finish at the 2008 Nairobi Half Marathon. His time was 1:02:43, a fine debut, considering the race was run at 5,000 feet elevation. A year later he improved this personal best time to 1:01:26 in the Berlin Half Marathon thereby launching his professional running career.
Several small, nagging injuries interrupted his training throughout most of 2011 preventing him from getting the solid three months of high volume training which is necessary for a world class marathon. But now he claims he is top shape. At the Vienna Marathon on April 15th he returned to form with a splendid second place finish in 2:07:38.
“I am new to the [Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon] race. I know nothing about it,” he says. “I have been busy with training. Thank you and may God bless you.”