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Kenya’s marathon champ Rono looks
to make it three in a row in Toronto   

By John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Philemon Rono will be targeting his third successive title at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct 21.

Only his compatriot Kenneth Mungara has enjoyed more success in Canada’s biggest city, winning four times (2008-2011). Rono made history a year ago when he also ran the fastest marathon ever on Canadian soil. His time of 2:06:52 was also a personal best.

“I’m very happy to go to Toronto again. I met friends there from Kenya, they came from many different places in Kenya,” said Rono.

Last year, the 27-year-old Rono’s performance earned him 45,000 U.S. dollars for setting a Canadian all-comers’ record in addition to 20,000 U.S. dollars first place prize money.

Like many of the world’s best marathon runners, Rono prefers to race just two marathons a year.

Although he started Boston in April, the dreadful conditions scuppered his plans and he failed to finish. That might well prove to be a positive development in his build-up to Toronto. Now his focus is completely on getting his Toronto hat-trick.

“It is important for me to want to write history, to become the man to win three consecutive Toronto races and to set a course record again,” he said. “It’s possible to run faster and if the weather is good then, maybe, another personal best time.”

Coached by Patrick Sang, the 1992 Olympic steeplechase silver medalist, Rono has had to train with champion marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge.

Laban Korir, another training partner, prepped Rono for his Toronto Waterfront debut two years ago by telling him details about the course and weather conditions. Korir was the 2014 Toronto champion and finished third in 2015.

But it is Kipchoge whom every athlete in the camp reveres the most.

“He inspires me,” Rono admits proudly. “Mostly when we see Eliud and how he acts. When it is time to go for training, it is time for training. When it is time for rest, we rest. When it’s time to jog, it’s time for jogging. We watch everything he does.” 




Kenya’s Cherono plots title defense against Ethiopian legend

By John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Lawrence Cherono says he will do everything in his power to retain his Amsterdam Marathon crown and deny Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele the title.

The two are expected to compete at this year’s race, which will be held on Oct 21 and Cherono believes he has played the underdog card before and surprised his critics when he won in the Dutch capital last year.

“Last year, I was very happy with the result. I immediately knew that I will come under focus this year and though I had not known who to face, I will be happy to battle it out with Bekele and win again,” Cherono said on Tuesday in Eldoret. Of the nine marathons Cherono has contested, he has won four and finished on the podium in eight.

Alongside winning in Amsterdam last year he also finished second in Rotterdam with a time of 2:06:21. The Amsterdam Marathon has always attracted a strong group of elite runners and the 2018 race will be no different.

Bekele, a multiple world and Olympic champion announced last week that he will skip the big city marathons to compete in Amsterdam, which is an IAAF Gold Label road race. The Ethiopian distance runner owns the second-fastest marathon performance in history on a record-eligible course, having clocked a national record of 2:03:03 to win the 2016 Berlin Marathon.

His time is just six seconds shy of Dennis Kimetto’s world record (2:02:57). Bekele, who will be contesting his first marathon on Dutch soil, will be up against Cherono and a horde of other top Kenyan and Ethiopian road racers.

“Kenenisa Bekele is one of the world’s best long-distance runners,” said race director Cees Pronk. “We are incredibly proud that Bekele will be lining up at the start on Oct 21. Bekele decided to run in Amsterdam because he has experienced the expert organization of the event and knows first-hand that the athletes always come first.”

However, while Bekele might be focused on the world record, Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge might just make his work harder if he is successful in his bid to beat that time in Berlin in September.

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