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RUN, CYCLE, SWIM, SKI?
The theory that Kenyan long distance runners could become Nordic skiers was
tried out at the last winter Olympics, and found to be little more than a
gimmick. After John Kelai's win in the Standard Chartered Singapore
Marathon on Sunday, we might have a long wait for the first world class
Kelai is already close to being a world-class duathlete - running and
cycling - and is trying to improve his swimming, to make up the triathlon
set. But his win in his second 'home' of Singapore means that he may
concentrate on running. "I'd really like to run one of the big European
marathons next, perhaps London," he said after his victory.
Kelai, 26 is already unusual in that he is one of the rare runners from the
Turkana tribe, nomads from the poor and arid northern part of Kenya. The
most famous Turkana is Paul Ereng, 1988 Olympic 800 metres champion. "Paul
used to be my coach," said Kelai, who was 'discovered' by a Singapore
triathlon group in 2001, when they were training in Eldoret, the heartland
of Kenyan running.
Kelai now spends six months of the year in Singapore with Bob Bowness,
founder of the Tribob triathlon group. Members were much in evidence on the
marathon course on Sunday, wearing 'John Kelai Support Group' tee-shirts.
"John has quickly taken to the bike and is within reach of duathlon
world-class times," said Bowness, "but after this run, he may be better off
concentrating on the marathon".
Kelai's first marathon was in this same race last year, when he finished
seventh. He won the Penang International Marathon in neighbouring Malaysia
in May, but all three of his races have been in heat and high humidity,
hence his 2hr 19min 02sec winning time on Sunday.
Kelai earned US$20,000 for his win on Sunday, and says he and his wife
Susan will use it on the education of their two girls, Faith, aged three,
and Karina, just one month old.
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