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Kenyan Peter Kirui Works Hard, Dreams Big

Kirui will test his form in Saturday's Prague Half Marathon as he targets a future marathon win.

Kirui will test his form in Saturday’s Prague Half Marathon as he targets a future marathon win.

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

PRAGUE — When Peter Kirui won the New York City Half Marathon in 2012, it appeared to be a harbinger of something great coming on the immediate horizon in road racing’s longer, ultimate distance.

To date that has not happened.

Kirui’s four marathon starts since then have yielded a DNF in Rotterdam and a 10th in Amsterdam in 2:09:15 in 2012, and a DNF in Otsu and an eighth in New York in 2:11:23 last year.

But the 26-year-old is not even remotely deterred.

As he prepares for Saturday’s Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon, Kirui knows the reasons behind his recent struggles and why he could ultimately succeed are one in the same — hard work.

“The last year, year and a half has been difficult,” Kirui said. “But I am not worried.”

For the last 15 months, Kirui’s focus has been split between his training and studies at the Kenya Police College. The schooling forced Kirui to move his training from the distraction-free tea plantations of Kericho to the heart of the capital in Nairobi.

While Kirui, father to a daughter, Tiffany, born in 2011 and a son, Felipe, born in 2013, said becoming a police officer was an important personal step for him to take to “insure security for the future” in Kenya, the decision has adversely impacted his present. The drain on his time and relocation combined to contribute to a sub-par year of racing.

In 2013, Kirui’s best half-marathon time was 1:04:48 at altitude in Bogota, Colombia, a far cry from his PR of 59:39 from the win in New York.

“I normally train in Kericho, which is very high and lots of hills but now I am training along Nairobi in the police college, which is flat but low,” Kirui explained. “Kericho is about 2,150 meters in elevation. Nairobi is about 1,700 meters. We train now from 5:30 to 7 in the morning because from 7 to 5 we are working with other activities.”

That hard work has made for a temporary setback in Kirui’s running career is somewhat ironic in that he labored for years to advance as far as he has.

Born in Bomet, Kenya, Kirui’s childhood days began with him milking cows on his father’s farm at 5 in the morning. He would run with that milk to the pasteurizing factory six kilometers away and run back home, where he would take breakfast and then run four kilometers to school for the start of classes at 8. He would run home and back for lunch, run home again for afternoon chores, then back to school at 6 for evening classes. His day concluded with one final four-kilometer run home at 9:30 at night for sleep.

Life as an agrarian had Kirui running on the weekends as well.

“When we were in primary school and high school, normally on Saturday and Sunday and on holidays we would take the cows grazing for some distance,” recalled Kirui, who continues to invest money earned from his running into the family cattle business. “We would run with the cows, especially if we saw that there was a raid.”

Life didn’t get any easier for Kirui once he embarked on a professional running career in 2008. He joined a small group training alongside the teacher’s college in Kericho, approximately 180 kilometers from his permanent home. Accommodations were sparse, and space was scarce.

The bedroom, which fit one bunk bed and a third single mattress on the floor with clothes and shoes to be hung on the walls, slept six men. As low man on the totem pole, Kirui spent his nights on the floor.

“It was a tough situation at the time,” Kirui said. “Everything was decided on performance so I was on the floor. But in those years, I didn’t put it in my mind that because I slept on the floor, I couldn’t run good. When I won the 10,000m national championship, I was sleeping on the floor. When I paced Patrick Makau to the [marathon] world record, I was sleeping on the floor. From 2008 to 2011 I was on that floor. Only since 2012 have I had a bed.”

It is coming from that background that emboldens Kirui.

He and Makau are scheduled to graduate from the police academy on April 17. Within a week after that, Kirui said, he anticipates returning to his former full training program.

The Prague Half Marathon should provide a good test of his fitness ahead of his immediate focus, which is pacing Moses Mosop in the Volkswagen Prague Marathon on May 11. “Mosop has told me he wants to go for the course record, so I have to be ready to run maybe 2:05 or even 2:04,” Kirui said.

After that, Kirui will begin his own full-bore marathon training with an eye on racing sometime in the fall. By then, he is hoping to know how much closer he is to his dream of taking a shot at the world record, perhaps as soon as somewhere in 2015.

“After finishing these last 15 months, hopefully next year I will be able to try for the world record,” he said. “If I can run half marathons in sub-58, I know I will beat the world record because I am still young and I am still strong. By December, I will test my body to see if it is in good position or not.

“In 2011, when I paced Wilson Kipsang in Frankfurt and finished the race myself, I started to think that even I could break the world record. I still believe that today.”

PHOTO: Peter Kirui with a group of school children in a tea plantation near Kericho, Kenya (Photo by Davor Savija, International Athletics Consultancy; used with permission)