Wilson Kipsang: Eat, train and race like a marathon champion

Written by Declan Holt

Wilson Kipsang – the former marathon world record holder, has added another impressive result to his list of long distance achievements. Kipsang came second in the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon.

The London event hyped up rivalry between Kipsang and current world record holder Dennis Kimetto, dubbing it the ‘Clash of Champions’.

Kipsang and Kimetto are from nearby villages; Iten and Eldoret in Kenya. The pair train together but also face off in the same events. The close natured training relationship is well defined however during races.

‘It is true that we train together and I know him very well because of this. Actually during a race we see each other as opponents. We both want to be the best and the fastest.’

The London race was the first time the two have competed head to head in the same marathon event. Kipsang took out 2nd place with a time of 02:04:47, whilst Kimetto placed 3rd in 02:05:50. Race winner Eliud Kipchoge also from Kenya, upset the two favourites setting a time 5 seconds faster than Kipsang.

Although finishing runner up in London Kipsang is continually admired for his near impossible world record marathon pace of 4:42 a mile, which he set during the Berlin event in 2013. Kipsang attributes the result to his dedicated training schedule and the many kilometres he runs per day

‘Most important to develop a good mile pace is running a lot of kilometres. In an average week I train every day and some days even twice. These trainings differ from a long run to an easy run and from fast intervals to hill training. In an average week I run 160 kilometres. Besides that I visit the gym three times a week to train the core, so I can maintain a good posture during the race.’

The marathon is a constant battle against oneself both physically and mentally. The final stages of a race can be the most punishing especially if a runner has started off ahead of pace. Kipsang’s motivation to push harder in the final stages is clear and simple.

‘I think about the finish. In the early stage of a marathon it is hard to find your own pace because of the crowded road. If you experienced a too fast start during a race you are able to recognise this next time and keep in mind to start a little slower. If it is your first marathon start at a pace you feel comfortable with. It is more fun to be able to accelerate at the end of the race because you have energy left.’

In the past Berlin has frequently been the venue for record-breaking marathon performances. Runners like the minimal course and regard it as the best event to attempt record-breaking times, if the conditions are accommodating.

‘I like fast courses like Berlin. A flat course, like Berlin is the best for a fast time. If it is possible according to the course, the weather circumstances and the pace schedule we’re at I would really try my best to break the world record.’

Many long distance champions have originated from Kenya particularly Kipsang’s tribe the Kalenjin. Researchers have studied the tribe and believe variables such as genetics and body composition (particularly ankle width) give the Kalenjin an advantage. However Wilson views the culture and abundance of other runners training as another influential factor adding to their success.

‘Running is in our culture. Everywhere people are training and we see people succeed, so it is an easy step to start training as well. Besides our stature is very effective for running.’
The marathon competitors originating from Kalenjin typically eat a diet of traditional Kenyan meals and are known for their love of tea, however Wilson supplements his diet leading up to races with products from his sponsor.

‘I eat typical Kenyan food like rice, vegetables, ugali, chicken and beef. Besides I use the supplements of Herbalife to support my energy level during training.’

Nourishing his mind Kipsang uses variety and socialising to maintain his level of enjoyment for the otherwise punishing sport.

‘I keep marathon running fun by training with my friends, run different training and routes and connecting with other athletes and people involved in athletics at races.’


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