© Copyright – 2012 – Athletics Illustrated

Kenyan Emmanuel Mutai will be contesting the marathon at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Initially he was not selected to the team due to his performance at the 2012 Virgin London Marathon, where he was feeling under the weather. However, his resume was not to be ignored considering his win in London the previous year where he attained his current personal best time of 2:04:40.

Four times he has finished in 2:06, three of which were in London and one in Amsterdam, his first serious race, which he won. Like many East Africans of late, he moved swiftly to the marathon distance at a young age and has been rewarded with excellent results and selection by Athletics Kenya to the Olympic team. He is currently the sixth fastest marathon runner of all time.

Mutai won a silver medal at the 2009 IAAF World Track and Field Championships finishing in 2:07:48 after a long duel with fellow countryman Abel Kirui.

Personal bests

10k – 27:51
10,000m – 28:09.2
15k – 42:11
20k – 56:44
Half Marathon – 60:03
25k – 1:14:03
30k – 1:28:30
Marathon – 2:04:40

(in 2014, two years after this interview, Mutai ran: 2:03:13 at the time Dennis Kimetto (pictured below was the world record holder at 2:02:57).

Christopher Kelsall: Can you describe what life was like growing up in Lessos and Tulwet? What was a typical day like?

Emmanuel Mutai: I was born in Lessos but live in Tulwet now. I grew up in a rural area on a small farm where it was all about playing outside and helping with cattle and other small jobs. Life was easy back then. You go to school, come home, do some small jobs and food is served.

Mutai with Dennis Kimetto, world record holder (2:02:57). Credit: BMW Group PressClub

CK: There are many Kenyans who talk about growing up running or walking and running everywhere they go. Did you run to school everyday? If so, how far away from the house was school?

EM: I ran to school but only when I was late. School wasn’t that far away, but as we were playing outside a lot, I got a lot of physical exercise as a kid.

CK: What was your earliest memory of distance running?

EM: Running was always there, but my uncle Richard Limo, he is the brother to my mother, made me realise of my own potential. From Lesos, where I grew up, we had for example Joseph Keter, who was the Olympic Champion in the Steeple in 1996.

CK: Richard Limo, the famous 5000m runner? Was it he who inspired you to take running seriously?

EM: Yes. I first saw running as a way to get a scholarship in the USA. Richard was instrumental as a close example of my own abilities. He motivated me to pick-up running seriously.

CK: Having a faster road 10k than track 10,000m time, do you look to change that or are you going to continue to focus on strictly on the marathon distance?

EM: Well I ran 10,000m when I was young. I ran it in schools but didn’t make it to nationals. When I later started training with real track runners, I quickly realised that my future would be on the roads.

CK: Was winning the 2011 London Marathon more satisfying because of the way you race, always keeping the pace honest?

EM: My first marathon I finished I was a pacemaker and the first serious one I ran I won, which was Amsterdam 2007. After that I always choose to run in the best race I was invited to. It is not easy to win in London, Chicago, New York or the World Championships. I got closer and closer. After NY 2010 Dave Bedford told me that he admired the way I was always pushing the pace and that if I would continue to run with that attitude victories would come eventually. I believed that as well.

CK: Did you do anything different in training for that win? Or was it about time you had matured to that new level?

EM: I think Dave Bedford was right. If you continue to do what you do with seriousness and passion success will come. I didn’t change anything. It’s just that our coach Patrick Sang trains us for the long term. We all become better runners over the years and can maintain a high level for a long time. All we need to take care off is staying fit. Unfortunately, I got sick in March 2012 but I was in the same shape as in 2011 when London came up.

CK: The Kenyan team in the past always seemed to work more as a team than other countries did. Do you think this has changed, now that the Kenyans are so much faster than everyone else? Less need for sacrifice?

EM: In marathon there is no such thing as sacrifice. The strongest runner in the race will always win. This is not track where tactics play a bigger role. We run for Kenya but we also run for our family. Knowing the economics of running, sacrificing yourself isn’t a very wise thing to do. For those that do, they have forgotten before they know.

CK: Were you surprised when Athletics Kenya changed their minds and added you to the team?

EM: Initially I fully understood that they didn’t select me. My result in London wasn’t good enough and others showed better form. As I was one of the six preselected there was always a chance to replace somebody. They called me and asked whether I was ready to replace somebody. I was, so I accepted the invitation. I didn’t ask their considerations and or why they took me.

CK: What do you know about the London Olympic course? Is it the type of course that favours you?

EM: There are a lot of corners which makes it a technical course as well. Of course the distance remains the same and is challenging in itself. It won’t be a race you can take from gun to tape in the same pace so it’s course for racers instead of pacers. I think I can do both. Abel has proven to be able to do both. And if Wilson Kipsang is in shape he can do it, although he is downplaying himself a bit as he is tall. But we shouldn’t underestimate anyone. Its a racing-course.

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