The former marathon world record-holder returns to run London this weekend when he will look to extend his success in Great Britain
Wilson Kipsang is a familiar visitor to the UK, and a successful one. The Kenyan has won the Virgin Money London Marathon twice, in 2012 and 2014, as well finishing second in 2015. He won the Great North Run in 2012 and took an Olympic bronze in London in the same year.
He enjoys running here. “The London Marathon is really one of my favourite races because I’ve won twice,” he said. “It’s such a big race. One of the World Majors, and winning London you find that it’s really wonderful because it’s a great city.”
His many overseas victories include winning the New York Marathon and the city’s half-marathon as well as the Berlin, Otsu, Hawaii and Frankfurt marathons.
But arguably his greatest achievement was breaking the world record in Berlin in September 2013. Kipsang had been targeting the 2:03:38 record of his fellow Kenyan, Patrick Macau, for some time. In Frankfurt in 2011 he ran a bold race and really attacked over the last 5km but finished in 2:03.42, an agonising four seconds outside the five-week old record.
But in Berlin, Kipsang left nothing to chance. “You have to focus and plan for a long time if you wish to get the world record,” he said. “On the one hand, world records fall when you least expect them to fall. On the other hand, you have to set a goal and you have to be prepared to make changes and go for it.
“You have to focus and plan for a long time if you wish to get the world record”
“I knew I had to change my preparations,” he added. “I wanted to be faster in the last part of the marathon.
“You need long runs in the hills of Kenya to be faster in the end. You need a higher pace as well. And you need the right people to train with. So I asked many of the fastest people on this planet to train with me: Geoffrey Mutai, Dennis Kimetto, Vincent Kipruto and Wilson Chebet. All of them are winners of great marathons. These are the best guys to train with.”
Kipsang took control of the 2013 Berlin race in the final 10km, breaking away from the leading pack. He said afterwards: “Getting the world record has always been my dream, since I saw Paul Tergat get the record more than a decade ago. When you feel strong in a race and have been preparing well, you have to push and go for it.
“I attacked at 35 km, not only because I felt good, but also because the pace was slowing down a bit. I needed the higher pace for the world record. I had plenty left in the last seven kilometres and felt confident to win. I did speed up but not by much because of the long distance. You need to calculate very well because if you go too fast you just kill yourself. I did speed up a lot but just in the last three kilometres.”
“Getting the world record has always been my dream, since I saw Paul Tergat get the record more than a decade ago”
Sadly for Kipsang, his world record only lasted a year as fellow Kenyan Kimetto won the 2014 Berlin Marathon in 2:02:57.
The former record-holder gave this insight into marathon running: “The most challenging thing about the marathon is the distance. If you are used to running 5km or 10km then a race of 42km is very long! So you’re just thinking about finishing and about the time.
“It is psychological. To run a fast time, you need to have speed and to have saved energy and to be mentally strong.”
Kipsang has already achieved a great deal on the roads but he is not satisfied. He wants an Olympic gold in Rio. Then there is the world record. Ahead of Kimetto improving the mark, Kipsang had said: “I want to get my own world record to a safe place. Under 2:03 is a place which is difficult to reach for other athletes.” And who would bet against him achieving it?