Robert Kiprono Cheryuiot: Frankfurt produces next Kenyan marathon star: BMW Frankfurt Marathon

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Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot together with RaceDirector Jo Schindler and women’s winnerSabrina Mockenhaupt in front of the Frankfurtstock exchange.

Photo: www.photorun.net

The startline of the Commerzbank Frankfurt Marathon is right beside one of the city’s more unusual landmarks, a giant metal ‘mobile’ known as the Hammer Man. Well, Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot took his cue from the statuesque artwork, crushing his opponents in his debut marathon as effectively as the mighty metal arm smashing down every few seconds onto the anvil.He needed to make an impact, since not only does he share a name with one of his more illustrious compatriots – Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, four-time winner of the Boston Marathon – but dozens more of his colleagues are winning races around the world every weekend. A course record of 2.07.21 on his first trip abroad should do the trick.Cheruiyot, Mark II was not exactly overawed by the attention following his winning debut, but like many of his colleagues, who hail from small rural communities, getting him to open up with more than rudimentary information was a bit difficult after the race. Fortunately, the man who championed his cause, training partner, William Kiplagat, who finished tenth in the Frankfurt race was on hand when things quietened down later on Sunday, to both fill in some gaps, and help draw out his 20 year old colleague.It was Kiplagat who took Cheruiyot under his wing six months ago, when the youngster decided that he wasn’t making sufficient progress under a training regime elsewhere in the country. Kiplagat operates out of Kapkitany, a small township some 46 kilometres from Eldoret, running capital of, well, the world, I suppose, or at least Kenya. “We trained together for two months and I could see that he was strong, and sererious about his training,” said Kiplagat. “Even when I wasn’t there, I heard that he still did everything I asked him to do. So I told my manager (Global Sports, the outfit owned by Dutchman, Jos Hermens), and we got him into this race”.At that late date, the Frankfurt organisers had spent their athlete budget, but agreed to pay back Cheruiyot’s airfare if he ran under 2.14. Not only did he do that by close to a seven minute margin, Cheruiyot broke the course record by over 30 seconds, and with prize money and bonuses netted 50,000 euros. For a youngster from a farming community in the tea country of Kericho, near to Lake Victoria, that is big bucks. Cheruiyot is the fourth of five children, and says his father died last year. “I have only my mother (Esther) now, I want to build a house for her”.

Like many Kenyans dreaming of glory, it seems that he has been ploughing a relatively lone training furrow without really attracting attention until Kiplagat intervened. Cheruiyot says that when he was a schoolboy he ran 14.30 for 5,000 metres. Which is something that hundreds of Kenyan schoolboys can do. His best 10k on the road is 30.34, again no great shakes, compared to dozens of his compatriots. Ditto the half-marathon he ran in 64 minutes in Nairobi last year. He was only 20th in that race. In complete contrast, with a bit of help from his friends, he has now done something that only the elite can do, ie run under 2.07.30 for a marathon. As Kiplagat said, “When we get home, we’ll talk with our management, and decide what we want to do next year”. Cheruiyot added shyly, “I want to get into bigger races”. With a calling card like he can now boast, it’s as good as done.