Virus struggle an 'uphill' marathon

NAIROBI • World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge has likened the struggle athletes are enduring during the coronavirus pandemic to running a marathon on an uphill course.

The Kenyan, who plans to break his course record of 2hr 2min 37sec at the postponed London Marathon in October, revealed that he had been able to keep to a strict training programme despite being forced to go solo because of social distancing measures meant to stem the spread of Covid-19 in his country. Kenya had over 1,200 cases and 51 deaths as of yesterday.

The Olympic marathon champion, who has not lost a race since 2013, when he was beaten by then-world record holder Wilson Kipsang in Berlin, also said he was keen to defend his title at the delayed Tokyo Games next July.

However, he acknowledged that he has had to be innovative to overcome the challenges caused by the Covid-19 crisis, with group training currently banned.

While Kipchoge admitted that he missed that camaraderie, he has adjusted his workout regimen to focus more on strength work and long runs rather than speed and tactics.

Speaking from his Eldoret training base on Sunday, the 35-year-old said: “I’m a marathoner and the marathon is like life. We have many courses in the world; flat courses, uphill and downhill, and this period of Covid-19 is like an uphill course, where we need to live in a slow way, in a positive way, in order to finish the race well.”

Kipchoge has also been on the front line to help his fellow Kenyan athletes, partnering the government and enlisting the support of his sponsors to deliver care packages to those who have seen their income dwindle to next to nothing due to marathons worldwide coming to a halt.

“Our country right now is totally upside down,” he added. “We have many athletes in Kenya, and 80 per cent of them are participating in races in Europe, America, Asia and Oceania for financial means.

“That’s what they were relying on. So last week, we provided about 70 athletes from five counties in Kenya with food for the whole month.”

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