NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – For a star-studded start list that consisted of former Half Marathon world record holders and world champions, it was a completely different name that crossed the finish line first at the men’s 10km at national trials for the World Cross Country Championships.
The relatively unknown Sebastian Kimaru clocked 28:22.5 to beat the tape at the Kenya Prisons Training College in Ruiru, ahead of Commonwealth Games 10,000m silver medalist Daniel Simiu (28:28.0) and former world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie (28:30.3) in second and third respectively.
With a ticket to the global cross country competition in February at stake, Kimaru confesses he was not fazed by the magnamity of the occasion as well as his more accomplished competitors who have won so many titles on the local and international fronts.
“No, it was not an overwhelming occasion for me (running against the likes of Kamworor, Kandie and Simiu). I have competed against some of them before so I was really confident of myself. I have worked hard in training and it has been a steady rise for me to where I am,” Kimaru, who trains in Kapsabet, said.
Kimaru, whose last race was a sixth-place finish at the Valencia Half Marathon in October, revealed he had to run a tactical race and be ready to pounce on his competitors’ lapse in concentration.
“All along we had been running in a group…not keen to take the initiative. But then again I decided to up the tempo a bit…to shake a few people off the leading pack and that’s how it came to this,” he explained.
He will be carrying the hopes of an athletics-crazed nation in the men’s senior race at the World Cross Country Championships and will be hoping to be part of a team that continue the Kenya’s longstanding reputation as the giants of cross country.
It will be Kimaru’s first time donning the national team singlet – a just reward for a runner who has been bidding his time amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and injury issues.
“It has been a steady progress all the way from 2019, 2020 to last year. I had decided that this (2022) would be the year that I finally break out after struggling for some time with injuries. I had to remain focused in training despite the challenges,” he said.
Schooler to superstar
The women’s 10km race was equally a shock as youngster Grace Loibach defied the odds by taking first place.
The immediate former St Joseph Secondary School Kapseret student clocked 32:32.2 to cross the finish line first as Edinah Jebitok (32:37.1) and Irene Cheptai (32:53.1) came second and third respectively.
It represents a meteoric rise for Loibach who was until this March a Form Four student before immersing herself full-time into her running passion.
However, that she would by the end of the year secure a ticket to represent Kenya for the first time at the international level was a stretch beyond her imagination.
“It’s unbelievable. I only just started serious training six months ago. After I finished school in March, I went into serious training for around six months. I have worked hard in that period and competed in two races…this was my third race in my senior career and it is so amazing to win today,” she said.
With her newly-achieved milestone, Loibach has now redirected her focus to greater things ahead.
On her mind is clinching a medal in Bathurst in February – or better yet, a gold medal.
“I want to work hard and even more in training to ensure that I can at least get on to the podium. Or better yet, I want go and return with gold,” she said.