At Bangalore 10K run on 18th May, Kenya’s multiple world champion Paul Tergat finished 19th. India’s national daily termed his performance “a forgettable 19th”
Just before Kenya’s Olympic Marathon team was announced Tergat convened a news conference where he withdrew his name for consideration into the Kenya Olympic marathon team. His reason for withdrawal was “I have been there, done that and now I want to give the new young runners a chance.”
While that was a kind gesture from Paul, his performance at Bangalore 10k shows his best days might be behind him. In Bangalore he was the oldest amongst Elite men at 39 years. The 10K run was won by Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadesse who outkicked Moses Kipsiro of Uganda in a close finish. Both men are in their early twenties.
In the 70s, 80s and 90s, long distance running especially the marathon was dominated by runners in their thirties. The conventional wisdom was that long distance running required experience. Runners started in the middle distances, as they got older they graduated into longer distances and eventually marathon running. That was the route runners like Paul Tergat and Haile Gebreselassie followed.
But that old route is now being deemed too long. In Kenya we are seeing runners just out of their teens running marathons. Samuel Wanjiru at 21 years is the youngest member of Kenya Beijing Olympic marathon team, he holds the world best in half marathon. Luke Kibet was 24 when he won Kenya it’s first gold in 20 years at 2007 Osaka IAAF World championship. As the marathon prize money has got fatter, aspiring runners are aiming for the marathon. It’s the sure route to be a young multimillionaire!
Competitive marathon running is now becoming a young man’s game!