By James Bakama
Sunday, 10.50am, SS5
Virgin London Marathon
The mere thought of being the sole Ugandan in the elite men’s race first made Stephen Kiprotich uneasy.
But this sense of solitude diminished with news that Haile Gebrselassie would be one of the pace setters in Sunday’s race.
The Ethiopian legend and Kiprotich have a special bond. He is not only Kiprotich’s idol, but the two runners are also managed by the same company-Global Sports Management.
“I always looked to him. I wanted to emulate him. It is very exciting to see that I am now following in his footsteps,” said Kiprotich after winning a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Kiprotich told British media that he is excited by the prospect of Gebrselassie setting the pace. “Haile is the master of the roads so it’s great to have him as a pacemaker. He knows the course and is sure to pace us well.” Organisers of the event have signed big names as pace setters to boost speed.
Double Olympic 10,000 meters champion Gebrselassie has been asked to run at world record pace as he aims to pull the elite athletes up to the 30 kilometres point of the marathon.
Twice an Olympic and four-times a world 10 000 meters champion, Gebrselassie also broke the marathon world record on two occasions. It will be the first time in his career Gebrselassie has run as a pacemaker and London race director Hugh Brasher said Monday: “We are delighted to announce that Haile Gebrselassie has agreed to run as a pacemaker in this year’s race.
“Haile is an icon of distance running, a man who has broken 27 world records on the track and road during his long and brilliant career, and we can’t think of anyone better to set our elite men up for a crack at the world marathon record.”
A $55,000 (sh140m) prize awaits the winner while a world record has an additional $100,000 (sh320m).
Kiprotich will also be up against one of the strongest marathon fields ever assembled.
The cast includes world record holder Wilson Kipsang, course record holder Emmanuel Mutai, defending champion Tsegay Kebede, British double Olympic and world champion Mo Farah and Paris Marthon champion Stanley Biwott.