by Paul Gains
TORONTO, ON (October 3, 2023) – Kenya’s Alfred Kipchirchir makes his marathon debut October 15 at the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon and he hopes it goes as well as that registered by one of his training partners.
Kipchirchir, 29, trains in a group which includes Vincent Ngetich who chased two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge along the streets of Berlin last weekend, eventually finishing second in the famed Berlin Marathon in 2:03:13. It was a stunning performance and one that has inspired Kipchirchir.
“I am looking forward to running 2:05 or 2:04 in Toronto,” he reveals. “My training is going well. We run between 180 and 210km in a week.”
According to Coach Peter Bii these two star-athletes trained together right up until the last two weeks with Kipchirchir running step for step with Ngetich. Of course, the latter had to back off training to prepare for the Berlin Marathon.
“I want to debut in Toronto because I like what I have heard about the city from Enock Onchari,” says Kipchirchir. A year ago Onchari, another member of the group, finished 4th in Toronto Waterfront.
“We know it’s very cold (in Toronto) from when Onchari was there. I have no information about the course,” he continues.
Kipchirchir has dipped under 60 minutes for the half marathon distance three times in the past three years with his best 59:43 set in the 2021 Madrid Half Marathon. With his current training going well it is not unreasonable for him to have very high expectations.
All of his life the village of Kapkenu has been his home. It’s about 80 Kilometres from the famed ‘runners’ town’ of Iten. As a young boy he admired the achievements of his neighbour Geoffrey Kamworor who won both the world half marathon and world cross country championships three times and was twice winner of the New York City Marathon. But it was a family member who pushed him to become a runner in his youth.
“My brother introduced me to running. He works as the manager of the High Altitude Training Centre run by Lorna Kiplagat in Iten,” he reveals.
Like many Kenyan athletes he leaves home every Monday morning and travels to the group’s training camp where he will remain until the following Saturday. He doesn’t own a car and relies upon a ‘matatu’, a publicly shared minibus. Sometimes his brother will drive him though. It’s a sacrifice he is prepared to make to ensure he achieves his running potential.
At the training camp there is much camaraderie. The shared sense of commitment and sacrifice he finds builds mental fortitude which he hopes to translate into a superb performance in Toronto. But there is also time to relax.
“I like to listen to music, Kalenjin (tribal) songs, when I am home and at camp,” he says. “And I watch football. I am a Manchester United supporter.”
Both he and Coach Peter laugh heartily when the interviewer shakes his head at the current disruption at the club. Among the group there are Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester City fans also says Peter.
Earnings from Kipchirchir’s running career have helped him take care of his immediate family, his wife Rhoda Jepkemboi Mukche and his 14-month-old daughter Praise Jepkorir.
“I have already bought a small farm,” he says. “It’s two acres. I grow maize and I have goats. My family members are at my home and they look after the farm when I am away at camp.”
The TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon course record is 2:05:00 held by Philemon Rono since 2019. On that occasion three runners came home within thirteen seconds of Rono, once again demonstrating fast times can be achieved here.
The transition to the marathon sometimes proves difficult for even some of the best distance runners in the world. But something in his preparation and attitude reveals Kipchirchir will have a memorable debut in Toronto.